out of 4
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Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4
When I heard there was an exhibition of Adolf Hitler's paintings in
Williamstown, Massachusetts, I was stunned. (I'd always thought he was a house
painter.) Now, writer/director Menno Meyjes (writer of "The Color Purple,"
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") speculates that Hitler was so frustrated
in his futile attempts to break into the trendy art world that he founded the
Third Reich instead. The story begins in 1918 in Munich, where two German
soldiers who survived the W.W.I siege of Ypres meet. Max Rothman (John Cusack),
a Jew who lost an arm in battle, has become a successful avant-garde art dealer.
In the sketches of fervent, young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), Rothman sees a
promising, unique kitsch. But developing his work takes dedication and patience,
two qualities Hitler lacks. Rigidly puritanical with neither family nor friends,
Hitler flounders until he discovers his talent for oratory. "Politics is the new
art," he exults, pouring his malevolence into rhetoric. "Anti-Semitism is the
ideology of those who feel cheated," Max counters, and the rest - as they say -
is history. The script has problems: when Rothman's mistress (Leelee Sobieski)
inquires, "What do you see in this man? He is the most horrible person"...so
does the audience. Filled with Teutonic symbolism, Hitler's paintings are
mediocre, at best. John Cusack is pitch-perfect as Rothman, while Australian
actor Noah Taylor captures Hitler's hateful, deluded bitterness. Ironically,
however, Taylor lacks the hypnotic charisma as a performance artist that made
millions of people follow this monstrous madman into the nightmare of W.W.II. On
the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Max" is an invigorating, provocative,
audacious 8. Surely it's the most nerve-rattling, controversial film of 2002.
Copyright © 2002 Susan Granger
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