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The Shop on Main Street


Tom’s Recommended Film of the Week


The Shop on Main Street

Had a chance this week to view an award winningCzech film from 1965 presented through The Criterion Collection. The Shop on Main Street, directed by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos from a short novel based screenplay by Ladislaw Grosman, tells the story of a small Slovak town as it is taken over by Slovak Fascism backed by Nazi ideals and power.

Each character in this film offers up exquisit nuances of comic and tragic interactions, providing excellent entertainment value while conveying the human fallout from such greed driven movements. In the midst of all these goings on the viewer finds the two eventual main characters; a quiet, weak willed man and an old widowed shopkeeper, played by Josef Kroner and Ida Kaminska respectively. As Fascism relabels them into Aryan and Jew, greed and guilt evolve and everyones true nature is tested and revealed.

For me this film offers up a startling view of a portion of WWIIhistory to which I had not yet been clearly exposed and it does so in a very compelling way with ironic mixes of comic and tragic elements. Much of the out of control ethnic pride bears strong paralells to modern circumstances around the world, giving this film lasting power in it’s story telling. The cinematography is outstanding and inventive, without being obtrusive and each character retains significance in their evolution from the beginning through the end of the film. Superior acting, an excellent script and solid directorial choices make this a good choice for the thoughtful film viewer or historian looking for an entertaining movie with deep substance.

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2 Responses to The Shop on Main Street

  1. Milan Richter says:

    Dear Tom,
    you should get an updating in geography and history: the small town in THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET by Kadar/Klos is not a Czech town but a SLOVAK. Ladislav Grosman was a Slovak Jewish author and he wrote the story in Slovak about his East-Slovakian experience with Nazi-close Hlinka Guards and deportations to the death camps, etc. PLEASE LERN MORE BEFORE YOU START TALKING ABOUT CZECH AND SLOVAK history.

  2. tom says:

    Hi Milan,
    Thanks for the correction, indeed the novel and screenplay by Grosman were based in a Slovak town. The director and producer of the film, however, are Czechoslovakian.
    I’ll make the change in my posting, so as not to misslead any future readers.

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