MARECEK, PASS ME THE PEN! (Oldřich Lipský, 1976)

Written by Ladislav Smoljak and Zdeněk Svěrák, and directed by Oldřich Lipský, Marečku, podejte mi pero! is a warm, humane Czech comedy. Jiří Sovák plays Jiří Kroupa, a fiftyish factory foreman who has just chastised his son for his latest high school grade report; “Soup!” Jiří instructs his wife for the boy’s lunch. “He deserves no more.” But now factory automation requires Jiří’s own return to school, after work, if he is to retain his position; in one class, he ends up at his son’s desk! Jiří must compete with the classroom brown-noser who is after his job at the factory. Eventually Jiří must ask his son for tutorial help in mathematics.
     I confess: I have but a dim view of the connection between the subjects that poor Jiří must study and his mastery of the newfangled controls in the new supervisor’s cabin that he will have to man; but once one accepts this premise, one is in for an entertaining ride.
     The funniest scenes unfold in class. One of the instructors, sprung from retirement for this term of teaching adults, is old and senile. “Thank you!” he says to the student who passes him a pen, whom he always calls Marečku, as a reflex of ancient memory, but whose name is something else. He advertises himself as a Latin tutor to his class. When a student asks if Latin will help with his job as a stockkeeper, the doddering man with the quavering voice responds, “Why shouldn’t a stockkeeper read Virgil?” and signs up the poor chap for his tutorial services. Although parent-teacher conferences are intended for the daytime teenaged students, Jiří’s competitor invites every known relation of his own, blood- and bloodless, including both wife and ex-wife.
     Funny; occasionally hilarious.

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