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Life comes to a halt in a small Czech village when a trucker and his fey assistant have a falling out. Director Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains) has never been known for large ambition, though here he seems resigned to terminal inconsequence. His small comic fable (1985) is resolutely charming, but always in ways designed to pacify an audience rather than investigate a theme. The flatness of Menzel's style (lots of crosscutting close-ups) doesn't translate to pastoral lyric, and he never achieves the fully worked out textures that made Milos Forman's The Firemen's Ball and Emir Kusturica's When Father Was Away on Business such effective evocations of Marxian provincial life. It all goes down easily enough, but the sweetness here is mostly syrup. With Janos Ban and Marian Labuda as the Laurel and Hardy truckers, and Rudolf Hrusinsky as Menzel's alter ego, a doctor of deflated ironic sensibility.

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