I Served the King of
by Tony Medley
Run Time 120 Minutes.
Slower than a glacier,
forty-five minutes into this thing, I said it was shaping up to be one
of least entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. Over an hour later, despite
prolific female nudity, when it finally ended I realized that that
assessment had grossly over-rated it. Reinforcing my opinion, one of my
companions at the film asked his wife, “Is this ever going to end?”
Jan Díte (Ivan Barney,
younger; Oldrich Kaiser, older) wants to be a millionaire, but he only
works as a waiter in restaurants of posh Prague hotels in the days
before WWII. Even though he’s short, girls seem to like him. He beds
them almost without trying. Soon, after the Nazis took over, he meets
Liza (Julia Jentsch), a full-blooded German, marries her, and that’s his
big downfall. We meet him at the beginning of the film as he’s being
released from his 14 year-9 month prison term. The story is told in
This is the second film
that director Jirí Menzel has made of a novel by Bohumil Hrabal. The
first was “Closely Watched Trains,” which won an Oscar® in 1968 for Best
Foreign Language Film. Waiting 38 years (this film was released in
Czechoslovakia in 2006) didn’t help Menzel’s talent with Hrabal’s books.
The story of his rise from
waiter to millionaire owner of a posh establishment is told in a
light-hearted manner with music that indicates that it’s all played for
fun, but the cinematography and characters are so surrealistic that it
seemed entirely phantasmagorical to me.
Even worse, this film is
burdened by the same problem that afflicts many foreign-language films,
the subtitles often blend in with the background, so they are
unreadable. When the subtitles are white, the background is often white.
Reading white-on-white is not a rewarding task. With all the amazing
special effects that are available today, it boggles my mind that nobody
has come up with a way to have the color of the subtitles change so they
do not blend with the background.
Having failed the watch
test dismally, there’s not much good I can say about this and there
really isn’t any reason to spend any more time writing about it. I
wasted two hours sitting through it and probably another hour getting
there and returning. I’m not about to throw more good time after bad.
August 30, 2008