Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Trains) (1966)
Director: Jiri Menzel
Comedy can often lose its humour in translation. Thankfully, I found Menzel's film very funny, despite knowing no Czech. Perhaps because the subject matter, losing one's virginity during a time of war (here the German Occupation in WWII), is not culturally specific. Milos, the main character, spends much of the film focused on his lack of sexual prowess, which causes him embarrassment and even episodes of depression; the war is the backdrop to these feelings. These emotions provide the black hue to the comedy, as Milos attempts suicide, all because he suffers from premature ejaculation.
The less said about the film the better the viewing experience I think. I didn't really know it was a comedy, watching it on the strength of its inclusion in 1001 Films. I was pleasantly surprised, and would want others to have the same experience. I will say that the ending is a slight shock, but is perfect for the story. The humour is both character-driven and visual: my favourite was Milos leading in to kiss his beloved Masa, a train conductor. The gag is worthy of Keaton.
I liked this, and am looking forward to more films from the Czech New Wave.