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Czechoslovakia, 1989 (MIFF 1990)

Director: Jiri Menzel

WITH HIS LATEST FILM, Jiri Menzel takes us to a time not so long ago but worlds away, to a beautifully appointed country estate in Southern Bohemia after the First World War.

The End Of Old Times recounts the sudden arrival and fortuitous adventures of the myste¬rious Duke Alexey Magalrogov. With valet in tow, the aristocrat cuts an elegant figure amidst the hunting party gathering; the "lord" of the manor, a man daunted by the details of etiquette and insistent on ale with each meal; his precious daughter and her feeble suitors, a priggish dandy and a callow youth; the librarian with his penchant for claret and upstairs-downstairs hanky-panky; and an assortment of pretentious guests.

Through chivalry, humour and outrageous action, the Duke galvanizes the hearts, imagin¬ations… and libidinal longings of this household of society wannabe's. But his "Old World" ways (especially with the ladies) are def¬initely out of synch with the other men, a cadre of newly-moneyed business types. Before long, the Duke realises his welcome has worn thin.

In his second adaption of novelist Vladislav Vancura (Capricious Summer), Menzel blends social satire with a period nostalgia to gently lampoon a class unaware it was singing its swan song. Like Rules Of The Game and Fanny And Alexander, The End Of Old Times embraces a rich ensemble of characters to create an utterly engaging universe.

Beautifully shot by Jaromir Sofr, this souffle of a comedy exalts the sight gag, romance and the free spirit. - (LT)

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