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Obchod na korze / The shop on main street (J. Kadar, E. Klos, 1965)

During WWII a simple carpenter is given control of the disowned shop of the old Jewish lady Rosaria.

The film starts out as a wonderful comedy. The quirky Tono is a simple-minded stubborn carpenter who has not much love for his fascistic brother-in-law and his nagging wife, but wants to be left alone. When his brother-in-law arranges for him to become the new head of the dry goods shop on main street, he reluctantly takes the job. But the absent-minded woman running the shop sees a new assistant in him and immediately puts him to work. Poor Tono just goes with the flow and at first everything seems to work out fine for everybody.

 But history runs its evil course and soon the harsh realities of deportation can no longer be ignored - at least by Tono. The shop lady only has a dim idea what's going on around her. As long as he can Tono tries to protect her. But at one point he sees that he can no longer keep her hidden. At this point the film turns into a haunting tragedy. The ending is a brutal consequence of what has been happening in the little village, somewhere in Czech.
The characters in the film are mostly lovable - and I felt horrible for this wonderfully charming old woman, totally lost in her own little world. 
The comedic part is amazingly funny and there are many small and big highlights that reminded me of the sharp humor of a Durrenmatt piece. The huge, totally absurd construction that is set up by the villagers in the middle of their town square is one example.
When Tono gets totally drunk with his wife and her brother, he gives a spontaneous Hitler impression (in front of a uniformed fascist, but nobody seems to care too much... it's Tono, after all). The whole drinking scene is hilarious.
And in one of the more touching moments where his character is portrayed, Tono takes his (daily?) foot bath. He pours together hot and cold water until he gets the temperature exactly right. The camera stays on him for quite a while and the absurdity of the action gets played out in full, when he has finally found the perfect temperature only to find out that he cannot get to his cigarettes on the table opposite.


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