The Shop on Main Street
The Shop on Main Street was originally released in Czechoslovakia in 1965 as Obchod na korze, and is now part of the Criterion Collection. The film was written and directed by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos, with the story based on "The Trap," a short novel by Ladislav Grosman, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars: Ida Kaminska (Rozalie Lautmann), Jozef Kroner (Antonin "Tono" Brtko), Frantisek Zvarík (Marcus Kolkotsky), Hana Slivková (Evelyna Brtková), and Martin Gregor (Katz). The film won the Academy Award in 1965 for Best Foreign Film.
In Sabinov, a small Slovak town near the northeastern frontier of German-occupied Czechoslovakia during WWII, Jews are unable to own property and Christians are given control over them. These "Aryan Controllers" are given the Jewish property to administer over by the courts. One such controller is Tono, an inept Czech peasant given the button shop run by the elderly and near-deaf Mrs. Lautmann by his brother-in-law, a rich Fascist Guard. However, the button shop makes little money, and Tono's dreams of riches soon fade. The Jewish community offers to pay him a wage to assist Mrs. Lautmann in her work and take care of her. Tono soon finds himself caring deeply for the woman, and when the time comes for the Jews to be shipped off, he is torn between protecting her and turning her over.
The Shop on Main Street is a moving film that depicts both the moral responsibility people have for one another and helplessness that average people feel when they are powerless to stop political crimes. The cast is terrific, especially the two leads (Kaminska and Kroner). The film is a bit slow, especially in the beginning, but the end of the film is incredibly moving and haunting.
The Shop on Main Street is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer looks great, considering that the print is 36 years old. There are some marks, specks, scratches, and some grain, though for the most part, they aren't too distracting. There are also about four places in the film where sections in the upper right hand corner are missing for four frames: I assume this is where it was edited together. The print also does appear a bit soft, especially in the blacker scenes.
The Shop on Main Street is presented in Dolby 1.0 Mono in Czech/Slovak with optional subtitles in English. The dialogue throughout is clean and easy to understand. The subtitles, which the packaging claims are "new & improved," are terrific – easy to read and understand with no misspellings or grammar mistakes.
Extras include the trailer and an informative liner essay by director Ján Kadár.
The Shop on Main Street is a moving and haunting film about the Holocaust that approaches it not from the angle of the death camps, but rather on the betrayal the Jews faced by their friends and neighbors who sent them there. Fans of the film or newcomers interested in the Holocaust will definitely want to check the DVD out, as Criterion has provided the film with a restored print and improved subtitles. Recommended!