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Closely Watched Trains (The Criterion Collection) (1966)

Vaclav Neckar , Josef Somr , Jiri Menzel  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Vaclav Neckar, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodský, Vladimír Valenta, Alois Vachek
  • Directors: Jiri Menzel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2001
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NFZB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,806 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Closely Watched Trains (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New digital transfer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation

Editorial Reviews

At a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, a bumbling dispatcher's apprentice longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him, this young man embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustration, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot. Wry and tender, Academy Award®-winning Closely Watched Trains is a masterpiece of human observation and one of the best-loved films of the Czech New Wave.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece September 30, 2001
I remember seeing this film as a teenager when it first came out and have loved it ever since. I've also seen it about forty times and, like the wonderful book you read over and over, this film continues to be a revelation. It is darkly comic, wonderfully well drawn and has, to my mind probaby the single sexiest scene ever put on film (the famous "rubber stamp" sequence).
The real tragedy of this film however, is the director Jiri Menzel, whose many films have never seen the light of day in this country. A victim of the Soviet crackdown on Czechoslovakia in 1968, Menzel's follow-up film, the absurd and outrageously funny "Larks On A String" was banned until only a few years ago when it was briefly shown in the U.S. and had an even briefer run on VHS (hint-hint: a DVD please??). Clearly, Menzel was/is a genius whose gift was stopped in its tracks by the ugly spectre of politics.
Menzel, like his fellow film makers Milos Forman, and Ivan Passar has a unique and important voice. "Closely Watched Trains" is a masterpiece in its richness of character and observation on the human condition. There is not a single false moment, nor badly cast character in the entire film. It is a rewarding experience and one to savor over and over again. I don't know how many films can make that claim, but this is one film I will see for a very long time to come. I'm so glad the DVD has finally come out - I've worn out three VHS copies over the years.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (Ostre sledované vlaky) January 9, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
The misadventures of a fledgling male, confronting the adult world for the first time, become a dark comedy about lost innocence and transitory accomplishments. The young hero, Milos, assumes the responsibility of his first job as a stationmaster's assistant in a village outside Prague. He is a frightened faun of a youth, all eyes and knobby knees, settling into the routines of a railway employee's life, and seldom removing his cherished cap, even in bed. The comic balance between Milos's shyness in both love and business matters, and the satirical look at small-town ribaldry, hypocrisy, and isolationism is overshadowed by the presence of the Germans. (It is the 1940s.) Menzel's film is a second look, filled with wit and pathos, at a particular Czech Everyman, catching every nuance of Milos's bright, often painful revelations, and leaving the spectator stunned by the inevitability of an unexpected fate.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Funny Train from Somewhere Sad June 14, 2006
A funny look at a dramatic world through the eyes of railway workers in a small town in wartime Czechoslovakia. I enjoyed watching this movie, it really is a hopeful and humorous story about human beings in times of turmoil. This is Czechoslovakia during World War II. The Nazis are officially in control, and actively imposing their bureaucracy on the nation. Our protagonist is young Milos Hrma, whose father is a retired railway man, spending his days sitting at home, looking at his watch, and telling everyone where each train is now. He encourages his son to find employment at the local village railway depot.

Easily the youngest employee at the depot, Milos wants to fit in, be admired, be a man. He wears the uniform of a train dispatcher, but doesn't seem comfortable in it yet. While other reviewers have mentioned young Milos' talk of wanting to have sex, which is actually quite funny in its stark honesty, much can be lost in our descriptions. This is a comedy, not a prurient display. It seems that sex is simply the path Milos believes he must take to be a man. It is his naivety and honesty with his fellow railway employees that makes the whole deal such a riot. This self-created drama keeps his mind off of what is happening around him. Some may be offended by this, in which case I'd suggest you'd probably be happier buying a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD. Milos does show himself a man...and it has little to do with s-e-x. Very worth watching!

Some of the scenes are terrific--I liked the scene where Milos goes up to kiss the female conductor as the train is about to pull away and then...oh, I won't ruin it for you! It really is a funny film set in a heartbreaking time. All the more interesting that it was shot in 1966. Reccommended for comedy buffs and railway workers everywhere. I wish that sort of exitement happened on my train! :)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb July 16, 2006
Based on an outstanding short novel by the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, Closely Watched Trains is probably the finest film of the Czech New Wave. The New Wave resulted from a period of experimentation that resulted from the liberalization of the Communist Party that produced the Prague Spring and was terminated by the Soviet invasion. The wit and humor with which Closely Watched Trains approaches Czech life during WWII was undoubtedly a major departure from the conventional party ideology. As commented by other reviewers, Closely Watched Trains is a witty sex comedy and ironic coming of age story. It is also a deeply ironic allegorical account of Czech history during WWII. Superbly filmed and acted.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Black Comedies you will ever see December 28, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This wonderful film from 1966 is one of the first black comedies, albiet with more pathos then you normally find in such fare. Director Jiri Mezel's film is set during the Second World War in a tiny Czech train when a young dispatcher (Vaclav Neckar) observes everything about life. Few black comedies cover so much, from the absurd to the erotic, with love and death thrown in, not to mention an ending that is still pretty shocking. "Closely Watched Trains" is an audacious film, especially for the time and place. Eastern Europe is not where you normally expect to find a jewel, but then the "Nazis" do not necessarily have to represent the Nazis, right? Again, this is one of the best black comedies you are going to come across in any language.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by always learning
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Story line too slow. Movie did not have sub-titles in English.
Published 2 months ago by Gary Norman
5.0 out of 5 stars Train Station at the End
This film adds a quirky resonance to the history of Neo-Freudian interpretation of human sexual psychology in film that rivals Bertolucci's "The Conformist". Read more
Published 9 months ago by Bartok Kinski
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight
What's is life all about? Don't know, still looking. Closely Watched Trains is a new favourite. It is about the absurd which is about reality.
Published 15 months ago by Pauline Kreibig
2.0 out of 5 stars Highly over rated 60's New wave Czech film
This is a highly acclaimed 60's new wave movie that won the Oscar for best foreign language film. It established the reputation of film director, Jiri Menzel, and is considered to... Read more
Published on November 26, 2009 by Roger Boon
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than tongue and cheek...
Jiri Menzel's `Ostre Sledovane Vlaky' has been heralded as one of the definitive films of the 60's, a deliciously engrossing `coming of age' story that mixes enough humor with... Read more
Published on November 13, 2009 by Andrew Ellington
5.0 out of 5 stars Closely watched trains
It was a very good copy of an excellent film

A good transaction
Published on October 19, 2009 by George J. Lederer
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheekily enjoyable
The Bottom Line:

If you heard that Closely-Watched Trains was a Czechoslovak film released in 1968 you probably wouldn't think it was a coming-of-age sex comedy, but yet... Read more
Published on August 20, 2009 by One-Line Film Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Horndogs Watching Trains
Based on the eponymous novella by Bohumil Hrabal, Closely Watched Trains wryly portrays the coming-of-age Milos Hrma a train-dispatcher-in-training at a Czech backwater railway... Read more
Published on July 4, 2009 by Douglas S. Wood
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Film
Note to American viewers: "Closely Watched Trains" (1966) is one of them "fereign films". It has subtitles and is in black and white (actually a strength as it is superb film... Read more
Published on November 12, 2007 by Only-A-Child
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