Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker, Ulrich Thomsen
Director: Menno Meyjes
Genres: Art House & International, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 03/09/2004 Run time: 108 minutes Rating: R
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RD C. (allepaca) from TEMPE, AZ
Reviewed on 10/25/2009...
As usual, Cusack is excellent. His smooth yet flawed, good-natured but jaded, crippled upper-class war veteran is a perfect metaphor for all of the non-Nazis who lived in Germany between the wars... as well as a larger reference to the "good Germans" in any society who reject, yet dangerously ignore, the tide of racial and social hatred.
I suppose it's a matter of taste, but I can't see why some people rag on Taylor for his portrayal of the young Hitler. I mean, c'mon-- how would YOU play a somewhat talented, overly-idealistic, twisted loser who ultimately became one of the worst monsters of all time? "Over-acted"?? Hey, what IS a political demagogue, if not the perfect example of "over-acting gone wild"? Only those who were actually there will ever know what he was really like... and they're pretty much all dead. I think Taylor's interpretation is quite good-- appropriately pathetic, driven, confused, seethingly bitter, and at the complete mercy of happenstance.
Anyway, the point of the film (hence, it's title) is the art dealer, Max, and his quandary of how to encourage the talent of a twisted youth-- in whom he sees some real possibility, and for whom he shares a war veteran's common sympathy-- without unduly disturbing his own adventurous and bourgeois lifestyle, or possibly risking wasted time & effort with yet another artistic wannabe. It's as much a film about the art marketing world-- with all it's pretensions, glamour, and quirks-- than it is about politics.
It's a testament to the skill of the filmmakers, that you'll find yourself hoping, wishing, longing for Max to succeed in his attempts to turn Hitler's seething energy toward a successful approach to painting... even though you know that he never will.
Hitler - The Early Years
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 06/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"****1/2 Countless films have dealt with Adolph Hitler the monster, the madman, the unprecedented mass murderer. But very few have attempted to go beyond this image, to conceive of Hitler in less than larger-than-life terms and to try to figure out what it was exactly that made this most infamous of modern dictators "tick."This is certainly understandable, for how is one to "explain" an Adolph Hitler? How is one to reconcile the man who was responsible for the deaths of millions with a flesh-and-blood person who lived and breathed like the rest of us? The answers to these questions have eluded sociologists, psychologists and artists for decades now and it is the rare person who even attempts to provide us with some possible explanations. It is for this reason that writer/director Menno Meyjes deserves extraordinary praise for bringing "Max" to the screen. Is it possible for a single film - especially one that runs a mere 108 minutes - to successfully address this bewilderingly complex subject? Probably not, but "Max" certainly takes a bold first step in trying to piece together this most mystifying of psychoanalytical puzzles.Meyjes begins his story in 1918, immediately after the Germans have suffered a crushing defeat in World War I and now face further humiliation in the form of punitive measures meted out by the Versailles Treaty. We see Hitler as essentially an embittered 30-year-old social misfit, a rootless, impoverished, down-on-his-luck painter whose work shows some promise but who keeps being told that he needs to find that "authentic voice" that will distinguish his work from that of his more successful artistic contemporaries. One of the people who tells him that is Max Rothman, a wealthy Jewish art dealer who, like Hitler, served his country in the war and who, also like Hitler, has a good reason to feel embittered about the experience. It seems that Rothman's career as a great and promising artist was cut short by the loss of his arm in battle. Thus, while Hitler burns with a sense of nationalistic fervor (he blames everyone but the Germans - at least the Aryan ones - for his country's defeat), Max seems less inclined to declare total devotion to his country. This is just one of the many points of contention that define this fascinating relationship between the two men.What Meyjes is able to do so well is to show just how Hitler transitioned from being basically a petty angry young man filled with feelings of personal doubts and inadequacy to being a bold, confidant visionary of a new world order based on German domination with himself at the helm. Through these two main characters, Meyjes paints a brilliant portrait of the times, of a country in ruins, of a people desperate to find scapegoats on which to pin their suffering. Even Hitler's anti-Semitism is initially vague and ill defined until some army leaders groom him to become one of the spokesmen for their new system known as "propaganda." Hitler is, obviously, a tightly coiled malcontent who, when he discovers he cannot convey his ideas successfully on canvas, changes his medium to that of speechmaking. Max, who has been encouraging him to pour his feelings into his artwork and to stay away from rabblerousing in the streets and beer halls, can do little but sit back in awe watching this seemingly insignificant young man beginning to exert his influence on the world around them. Although Hitler in many ways admires and respects this Jewish "friend," he can't get beyond the burning envy he feels towards the easy life that money and a privileged family have bought for Max. It is the great irony at the end of the film that Max becomes the unwitting first victim of Hitler-inspired hooliganism and violence and that, through this action, Hitler himself loses his opportunity to make a name for himself in the art world. The closing scene has a kind of perfect symmetry about it. These two men's lives intersect at a crucial moment in history, not in the way they intended, perhaps, but more as the result of a cruel trick of fate. A great theme that runs throughout the film is the old "what if" scenario. What if Hitler had been able to find acceptance in the art world? What if the Treaty of Versailles had not exacted so harsh a penalty from the German people? This theme is beautifully caught in microcosm in a scene where Max stages a small play lamenting the loss of his arm and his ability to paint and pondering over what works he might have produced had things turned out differently. Because we know what ended up happening in the years following the events depicted in the film, "Max" is filled with a haunting sense of sadness and foreboding. For instance, we see the Jews of Max's family enjoying their luxury and wealth totally unaware of what awaits them in the near future. It's as if the Sword of Damocles were poised precariously above their heads, yet they are serenely unaware of its existence and the danger they are in. Even the astute Max seems only vaguely cognizant of the threat Hitler and people like him pose to his way of life or the health and lives of those he loves. For without the 20/20 hindsight that experience affords, who could ever rationally conceive that a man like the Hitler portrayed here could bring the entire world crashing down around him? That, in fact, seems to be Meyjes' point, that "evil" can arise where we least think to look for it - in the banal, the mundane, the mediocre people who surround us unnoticed - until one day we wake up and see it all around us, when it is too late to do anything about it. The real tragedy of the story is that Max, for all his insight into life and art, cannot see that the ultimate evil of our times happens to be standing right there next to him in a shabby overcoat and worn out shoes. For much of the film's duration, Max sees Hitler as, essentially, a benign misfit, one who simply needs to channel his somewhat disturbing beliefs in a more positive direction, i.e. his artwork. It is Max's obliviousness to the true potential of his "protégé" that gives the film its air of chilling menace. Meyjes writes dialogue that is sharp, sophisticated and meaningfully witty. For instance, he embodies much of his theme in lines that grate on our ears and our sensibilities in their almost irreverent casualness, but which make perfect sense in the context of the story - lines like "I'd like you to meet Adolph Hitler...I've never heard of him" or "Hitler, let me buy you a lemonade." Such statements throw us off balance and make us giggle - until we realize just how beautifully they portray the meaning of the work, that at one time Hitler was just a name like any other, not imbued with any special evil significance - just like the man himself. We almost expect the people in the film to jump back in horror from his sheer presence or the mere mention of his name - yet how were they to know what was to come? How were they to know they needed to flee or at least do something proactive to counter his growing influence and power? These are the questions that haunt us.John Cusack as Max and Noah Taylor as Hitler give brilliant, insightful performances. Taylor does the well nigh impossible job of making Hitler seem strangely human while, at the same time, helping us to understand just how quick a leap it can be from disillusioned outcast to maniacal dictator."Max" is a brave and noteworthy triumph, a film that takes chances and sets a high standard for future historical dramas on the subject."
The Best Film of 2002
David A. Dein | The Garden State | 12/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First impressions can be deadly. Promises broken can cause real pain. Watch what you say and do because you never know who's watching. As a mainline protestant I believe that man, while he may strive to be good is essentially evil. `The road to hell is paved with good intentions,' if you will. I believe jealousy, greed, and avarice are very much a part of the human condition and its only through the grace of God we are not lost.I say this to illustrate a point. MAX is the story of two men, each on a quest to do something good. Each has a noble goal and yet both end up on a collision course with History. The first man is Max Rothchild (John Cusak, High Fidelity) a German Jew who has just returned from WWI missing an arm. He has settled back into his comfortable life of wealth and prosperity, with his beautiful wife (Molly Parker, Kissed) and his beautiful children. He has a mistress (Leelee Sobieski, My First Mister), and is a chain smoker. He probably drinks more than he should as well. He is also unable to do what he really loves, which is paint, so he does the next best thing. He becomes an art dealer. If he cannot create art why not discover the next great artist.The other man is Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor, Almost Famous) a German, who has returned from the war with nothing. He lives in the army barracks because he cannot afford a home for himself. He follows the rules and is straitlaced. He will not smoke. He does not drink (not even coffee) and he loves his country, a German all the way. But he does long to be a great artist.One day these two men start a relationship. It is amicable if strained. Max takes Hitler under his wing. Trying to get him to open up and embrace his art. Hitler becomes fed up and is dragged away from his art by the army. They have given him the platform he's always wanted, and with this platform Hitler begins to rail against the Jews, and those that threaten the great country that is Germany. In the end this one man is forced to chose between art and power. Real history tells us what decision he made.MAX is a fictional account of the early life of one of history's most evil men. But what I really liked about it is that it makes an attempt to get to heart of why people make the decisions that they do. Why did German nationalism lead to violence and genocide? Why do some people who are tested by pain survive and thrive, and others can be in the same place and become bitter? Why and what turned Hitler himself into a monster? Did he have a run in with a Jew that broke a promise or treated him like crud? All these questions come to mind and MAX tries to come to gripes with them.What I also like about this movie is it has no hero, but allows you as the audience to be empathetic to these men. Maybe Hitler has a point. Maybe he has the right the feel put upon by the world. Why, when he plays by the rules, does he live in the gutter, while a fast talking, hard drinking, chain smoking, adulterer has a warm bed? It would make me mad too and doesn't jealousy make us do some pretty drastic things.Writer/ first time Director Menno Meyjes (The Seige `Screenplay') has crafted a compelling and challenging story. The film makes a monster into a human being, not by praising him but by asking the one question we all ask, why? It doesn't begin to editorialize on what Hitler became, but presents us with a man who can make the right decision or walk down the wrong road. Of course we can never change the past, but we can try to find out where it all went wrong.John Cusack does a marvelous job of painting the picture of a good guy with a great heart, but too many flaws. There is a great scene near the end of the film where his wife confronts him with his adultery. Max never once says he's sorry, and I don't think his wife expects him too. But she loves him too much to run away. Will Max change his ways, maybe? Noah Taylor's Hitler has the perfect nuance. On one hand he's a bottled up ball of rage about to explode, on the other he's this wide-eyed dreamer looking for a shot. This is the hardest kind of part to play because the audience already comes in with the picture of what and who Hitler is, and not who he is at this moment. While he is an object of scorn, and rightly so. You can and must empathize with him, or the performance is lost. Taylor plays the right chords, and it works.My favorite scene in the films comes as Hitler is giving a speech about the supremacy of the Aryan race and Germany in a local bar and nobody is paying attention to him. Except one kid. Later in the film Hitler is giving a similar speech to a room of about a hundred people and guess who's sitting there. That single kid has turned into hundreds. An idea, no matter how wrong and misguided, has power. It reminds me of those KKK rallies, they show on the local news. Sure hundreds show up to berate these people, but if one person hears and is mad at the world, they can be easily swayed. Makes you think, that maybe what we say and do can have an effect on the people around us.MAX was my favorite film from last year and rightly so. It's bold, controversial, and asks a lot of questions, other films haven't. But mostly it's a human story about two men and their unlikely friendship. It's about striving to do what's right and it's about the power of art. It's about propaganda and politics--Hero's and madmen. MAX is a great film. ***** (Out of 5)"
Limitless unrealized potential, but still decent.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 06/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Max (Menno Meyjes, 2002)Menno Meyjes (Empire of the Sun, Ricochet) steps behind the camera for the first time to direct his own controversial script. Like most controversial scripts, this one got built up a lot more than it should have by people who probably haven't even seen the blasted thing. The story centers on Max Rothman (John Cusack), a wealthy Jewish art dealer not long after the end of World War I, before the massive German depression kicks in. He is a staunch modernist, but modern art isn't selling too well in a Germany that just got its head handed to it on a platter, and Rothman is looking for a new angle. He meets a young, promising artist by the name of Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor, from Almost Famous). Rothman and Hitler develop a testy friendship of opposites, with Rothman's libertinism and Hitler's asceticism grating against one another mercilessly, but the two men have a grudging respect for one another, and Rothmann has a genuine desire to help Hitler's career (if, one thinks, only for Rothman's impending success as an art dealer).The story of the making of Max is a tale of Hollywood political correctness run roughshod over creativity. The film was originally to be produced by Amblin Entertainment, but Spielberg-though he thought the script a brilliant one-pulled out at the last minute because of fears of a backlash from the Jewish community. With production at a standstill, Cusack immediately forewent his salary because of his belief in the viability of the film. (In the end, it was produced by an international conglomeration of companies, including Film Council UK (Formula 51, Bend It Like Beckham) and Canadian producers Alliance (eXistenZ).) It is also a tale of how even unwelcome publicity is publicity, and by the time Max was finished, many people expected the best thing since sliced bread.Max is a good film. About that there can be no doubt. But it is not a great film. While it doesn't, as Spielberg so euphemistically put it, "dishonor the memories of holocaust survivors," it doesn't exactly tread much controversial ground, either; if the struggling artist had been anyone but Adolf Hitler, Max would likely have opened unheralded, played arthouses for a few weeks, and been seen afterwards only by hardcore fans of one of the movie's stars. The ideas in it are wonderful ones, and there is much that deserves criticism by those who are better at such things than me (for example, Rothman's constant exhorting that Hitler must find his distinct voice in art, and the wonderfully ironic resolution of that statement not long before the film's climax), but the film itself is just not quite the equal of all that. It ends up with the same general feel of 2001's In the Bedroom; a lot of great stuff that just doesn't gel quite right. ***"