PHOENIX, a new film from German movie-maker Christian Petzold, who seems, with each addition to his oeuvre, to be journey-ing further and further back in time and history. His Yella and Jerichow were relatively modern-day tales; Barbara took us back to East Germany in the 1980s; now his new one reaches all the way to immediately post-Holocaust, as the few Jews left were returning to their former homes throughout Europe -- or heading for Palestine.
Harun Farocki) and director is shown at left -- the plot relies on a very interesting, and usually only partially believable twist, played for all it is worth. And with this filmmaker, that means it's worth at least a watch. Phoenix, in my estimation, proves his most fully satisfying work to date because it takes the several themes at hand -- the Holocaust, self-identity (with emphasis on those of both Judaism and feminism), physical appearance, loyalty and love -- and blends them into a surprisingly effective whole.
Nina Hoss (above, right, below, left and poster, top), who is as fine here as she always is, maybe even better. Ms Hoss has the ability to convince us that reams of subtext, as well as an enormous and roiling past exists within her slight frame and beautiful, expressive face -- all of which is true in the case of her character, Nelly.
Nina Kunzendorf, above) is making arrangements for the two of them to leave for Palestine, but Nelly is not ready for that. She wants to find her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld, below), a pianist who used to accompany her on the piano when she sang professionally. Clearly still head-over-heels about the man, Nelly can't abide the idea, planted rather firmly by Lene, that her husband ratted her out as a Jew to the Gestapo so he could play the get-out-of-jail-free card.
Sundance Selects -- the title refers to a club in which cabaret and other post-war amenities (above) are offered and at which our Johnny has a job, as well as to that famed Firebird rising from the ashes -- opens this Friday, Just 24, in New York City at the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. In the Los Angeles area, look for it at various Laemmle theaters beginning July 31.