There were two principal reasons for deciding to catch a movie (at the ongoing Kolkata Film Festival) with as unattractive a title as I Served the King of England – the movie has been directed by the Czech master Jiri Menzel, and the huge buzz it had generated here at the festival circuit. This is a pitch black comedy and a socio-political satire marvelously disguised by its bright picturization and infectious narrative. Covering genres that range from bittersweet fable to slapstick and vaudeville, this picaresque tale managed to make me laugh and think in equal measures. Told in elaborate flashbacks by a diminutive old man recently released from prison (having served only 14 years and 9 months of his 15 year sentence), the movie follows the meteoric rise of an ambitious waiter whose sole dream is to be a millionaire. Told in the form of a farcical comedy, and punctuated with heavy doses of absurdism, wry humour and bleak ironies, but with strong overtones of pathos and humanism, the movie succeeded in painting a rich and vivid picture of the troubled history of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia. The two things that especially stood out were the director’s audacity to tackle this extremely tricky subject with such bravado, and the high-voltage performances by the two actors who essayed the gleefully amoral and dangerously detached protagonist in his younger days, and the reminiscing, introspective and strangely captivating older patron representing the present, respectively.