Forty years have passed since Czech director Jiri Menzel won an Oscar for Closely Watched Trains, yet the basic formula for this 2006 feature (based, like the other film, on a novel by Bohumil Hrabal) seems nearly identical: a virginal young man, an assortment of hotties, plenty of slapstick, and the Third Reich. The story covers many years in the life of a devoted hotel waiter (Ivan Barnev) as he learns the profession from his dignified elders and gets his sexual initiation from the beautiful prostitutes who service the hotel's fat old industrialists. The tone darkens somewhat when the Nazis overrun the Czech lands and the waiter, infatuated with a newly arrived fraulein, gradually betrays his friends and coworkers. The deft physical comedy is a pleasure, though the leering chauvinism becomes more embarrassing as the movie progresses. Mel Brooks never had it this good. In subtitled Czech and unsubtitled German. R, 115 min.
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