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MAX

Taking as its premise Adolf Hitler’s youthful flirtation with art, this film explores two theses: (1) the Third Reich might have been avoided if the cultural arbiters of his early days had taken him seriously as an artist; and (2) fascism is art by other means. The first thesis needed more outrageousness than writer/director Menno Meyjes can muster: the climactic contrivance by which Hitler’s hopes of a one-man exhibition are violently cut short is a poor excuse for historical irony. The second thesis is set out bluntly — " Politics is the new art! I am the new avant-garde! " , Hitler (Noah Taylor) expostulates to Max (John Cusack), the Jewish gallery owner who befriends him — and then left hanging, as if the film were giving the audience an essay assignment.

What else do we have here? Some half-unintended humor (like the already celebrated " Come on, Hitler, I’ll buy you a lemonade " ), a reasonable Cusack performance, an earnest but undernourished re-creation of the art scene of post–World War I Germany (almost the first thing seen in the movie is George Grosz vomiting). Firmly in the spirit of the film, Taylor’s Hitler is a vivid portrait of dogged self-seriousness. (106 minutes)

BY CHRIS FUJIWARA

Issue Date: March 20 - 27, 2003
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