Jiri Menzel's new film, I Served the King of England opened yesterday at The Tivoli, based on the novel of the same name by the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, which (in Paul Wilson's standard translation) qualifies as my favorite book.
That qualification may inspire a very small group of my very best friends to go see the film, since they know how passionately I approach my reading and that I crave complicated stories, full of life and truth. There also is a category of people attracted to art house international cinema, who will try just about any film with subtitles that comes to town.
I'm trying to reach a different, and altogether broader, group of people than my closest friends and art house mavens. I am trying to tell the people who like beer and adore the female form that I Served the King of England is the film for them.
The hero, as the title implies, is a professional waiter (though he actually served the Emperor of Ethiopia; it was his mentor in the trade who waited on British royalty). As a waiter in Prague, he often has occasion to draw large, fat mugs of the most gorgeous, foamy, golden beer I have ever seen on the big screen. If you like beer, this film will make you desperately thirsty!
The film follows the structure and approach of the novel, which is picaresque. That is, it follows the adventures and point of views of an isolated hero (a "picaro"), whose wanderings give the story its shape and whose voice is the only thing that connects up the story's varied incidents. This picaro's life is a series of leaps from disaster involving a love affair or a job that implodes or explodes, and he always leaps into yet another job and another love affair. For me, it felt like reliving my twenties, except that this picaro had jobs!
For lovers of the varied female form, our picaro's episodic life is a blessing, because each time he comes to share a woman's bed (or couch or table), we get to share it with them, and they are all very troublingly beautiful Central European women. This film is erotica of a very high order. Our picaro is very playful in the bed - he likes to make tableaux of his lover's body using whatever is at hand and, with him being a waiter, that's often food - and the camera cherishes each woman's body for her own distinctive physical characteristics along the way.
Oh, by the way, our picaro also ends up working as a waiter on a Nazi stud farm, surrounded by naked, nubile German madchen, from which the above still was captured and lifted from an Australian critic's perceptive review. But that's much less fun for the eye than his intimate romps with one beautiful lover at a time.
Art house fims can live a gnat's life in St. Louis, so get to The Tivoli while you can! - if you like life, truth, beer or boobs.