Thursday, September 11, 2008

TIFF Part Something

Adam Resurrected

As a director, Paul Schrader has given us a few recognizeable movies - Cat People, American Gigolo, Auto Focus, and, um, a movie about Patty Hearst? As a writer though... Well, there's American Gigolo, Cat People, Bringing Out The Dead, City Hall, The Last Temptation of Christ... and a couple small films - Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.

For Adam Resurrected, he dons the director's cap, but not the writer's. The result is a movie that really tries to be a great one, and even leaves you with the impression you just saw an important film. But it's like the arrow just missed the bulls-eye and the shadow plays tricks with your eyes.

Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) was once Germany's most famous clown. He grew from a humble nightclub act to filling theatres with his Circus. Of course, when you're a Jewish clown in Berlin in the 1930's, things aren't going to go well for you.

Yup, another Holocaust movie. As Schrader pointed out at the post-film Q&A though, this one is a total fiction, and nowhere near as reverent as the movies in this genre are supposed to be. That said, it's not REALLY a comedy so much as a drama with comedic moments.

The bulk of the film takes place in the 1960's, Adam is alive, but not necessarily well. He's at a clinic in Israel for the survivors of the camps. It's essentially an asylum where experimental treatments are performed on those the most far gone. A woman who is constantly holding up the sky with one arm, a man in uniform blowing a bugle, and others with various dementias. In fact, Adam appears nearly sane - he's a genius, seemingly a psychic, and has charmed the doctors, a particular nurse, and the rest of the patients with ease. He has free reign of the place, invests the other patients money in the stock market, and has booze hidden away throughout the clinic.

We get his history through flashbacks. His days as the funniest man in Berlin, the night he saved a man's life by preventing him from committing suicide (using his psychic abilities and comedy), and the day the Nazis shut him down...

Then one day at lunch, he smells a dog. He becomes upset, confronting the head doctor, and tracking down the animal to a distant wing of the hospital. There, we begin to learn the true depth of his madness and pain.

Goldblum is very good as Stein, with the exception of his accent moving all over the place. He's charming, witty, and believable as a man trying to hide his suffering. Willem Dafoe plays a Nazi Commandant who destroyed Stein. His final scene is particularly good. Tudor Rapiteanu is particularly good as a boy who believes he is a dog.

But somehow, it misses the mark. Goldblum doesn't quite nail it, and is sometimes just Jeff Goldblum with an accent (or none). Considering the amount of work he says he put into the role, I'm surprised he slips out of it as often as he does. The narrative has some holes of believablity, and the movie tries to draw you in, just to let you go.

As is often the case, it's not a bad film by any means, and is, in fact, good. But it fails to achieve its aspirations, which makes it disappointing.

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