3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
art + politics = power Blending fact with fiction, this intriguing film present an insightful glimpse a the period between the two world wars. Max Rothman (Cusack) is a fictional compilation of characters, a war veteran whose artistic aspirations were crushed when he lost his right arm in combat. Now in 1918 Munich he's a famed art dealer, balancing his loyal wife (Parker) with an artistic mistress (Sobieski). Then a spiky young man (Taylor) shows up; he too is a war veteran trying to revive his artistic ambitions. While Max tries to get him to be more honest in his painting, this young man starts to be seduced by the artistic power of politics ... working on a much larger canvas. The young man's name is Adolf Hitler.

Meyjes (The Color Purple) makes his directorial debut here and shows considerable skill both with words and visuals. Nothing is remotely predictable; we never anticipate where the next shot will be--it's witty and askew and very clever as it touches lightly on very heavy themes. Despite a production design that's a bit too obsessed with shades of black, the film looks fresh and profoundly artistic, reflecting the avant-garde atmosphere perfectly and astutely capturing the darkly shaded performances. Cusack is especially good--it's that meaty, adult role we've been waiting to see, and he gets it absolutely right. And Taylor is equally absorbing, even though Hitler-as-written is a bit more problematic. He's just too sinister and slimy to be believable. Surely he wasn't a creepy genocidal maniac at this point in his life; why are the filmmakers afraid to let us have a bit of sympathy with him? And there's no sigh of the charisma that would get him elected to public office. Merely deciding to make this film was a very brave move, but it's a pity the filmmakers didn't go that one step further to make something that actually turned political correctness on its head ... not turning Hitler into a hero, but showing him as a human.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 2.Dec.02

dir-scr Menno Meyjes
with John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski, Kevin McKidd, Ulrich Thomsen, Peter Capaldi, Janet Suzman, David Horovitch, Andras Stohl, Heather Cameron, Joel Pitts
release US 27.Dec.02; UK 20.Jun.03
02/UK 1h49

Come dancing. Max and his wife (Cusack and Parker) love each other ... despite everything

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall