The alternate title to this Eastern European import is 'Death of the Beautiful Roebucks', although neither does justice to the broad scope of its humor or the repercussions of its final tragedy. And tragic it is, despite the infectious high spirits prevailing over much of the film, in which a hard luck home appliance salesman in pre-World War Two Czechoslovakia sells his way to success through luck, ingenuity, and a keen understanding of human nature (and how to take advantage of it). There's an irrepressible energy in writer director Karel Kachyna's roving wide angle lens and whipcrack repartee, but what gives the film its momentum is the knowledge that these are the final days of freedom, for Leo Popper and his family in particular and for European Jews in general. All the joking comments made in passing about Hitler and his moustache lend an ominous chill to Popper's comic misadventures, which include but are not limited to his single-minded passion for fishing and his pursuit of the boss' beautiful wife. The film is a celebration of life in all its folly and disorder, which only adds more impact to Popper's unspoken recognition of his fate in the devastating final scenes.
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