Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky); Jiri Menzel; 1966= Having watched clips from a few Czechoslovak films of this period I was a little wary as they seem quite surreal, but I really enjoyed this. Milos Hrma is a young man working as a trainee at a railway station. He forms a friendship with older employee Hubicka, a successful womaniser, and develops a fledgling romance with conductor Masa. But he confesses to Hubicka that he is in fact a virgin, and when a failed night with Masa makes him doubt his masculinity, losing his virginity becomes the only thing on his mind. Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation, this isn’t the sweet comedy the description makes it out to be. Although this film is anything but a comedy, there is an absurdist humour which is often favoured by Eastern European filmmakers. The humour, although not taking away from the serious subject matter, does provide some well needed light in a heavy going film. The script and the direction perfectly portrays the complex workings of the male ego, as well the awkwardness of our teenage years. Initially considered “pornographic” by the ultra conservative government, the subject matter revolves heavily around sex. But it’s not a smutty film, rather displaying the importance of sexuality to society, and the sexual scenes are handled with the same balance of humour and darkness. The political message is incredibly important, with the Nazi government playing a huge part in the film’s narrative. I can imagine the film is quite interesting on repeated watches, or when dissecting the wider cultural impact, because the dry satire is very clever. I was very surprised to find myself enjoying this film. It’s not very long so it’s very easy to watch, and the journey blends humour and depth with perfect balance. Stylistically it pleases the artistic crowd, but it is relatable enough and interesting enough to also please the audience, and that’s a rare thing to find. It has already found favour with critics, winning an Oscar and generally being raved about, and it’s about time that it received wider attention with audiences too.