Saturday, May 5, 2018

Charm, smarts and post-Holocaust Jewish knavery in Sam Garbarski's BYE BYE GERMANY

In the annals of Holocaust-themed movies that go places most of their brethren would not care or dare to, BYE BYE GERMANY takes its position as one of the more daring, even if it is, after all, just a pleasant, near-mainstream rom-com-drama. Yet the subjects with which it deals -- what it took to survive the camps, post-Holocaust-Germany wheeling and dealing by Jews on the black market, as well as the question of exactly what some of those Jews did during their imprisonment ("Was he a Kapo?" one of them asks of another) -- helps make the movie a worthwhile addition to the sub-genre of post-Holocaust films.

As directed and co-written (with Swiss screenwriter, Michel Bergman, based on his novels) by Sam Garbarski (shown at left), who, a decade back, gave us the very interesting Irina Palm, the film is from its very start surprisingly sweet and sentimental, giving us a three-legged dog with whom our hero, Bermann (the wonderful and versatile Moritz Bleibtreu), has clearly bonded. We immediately bond, too. Herr Bleibtreu, below, excels at playing crooks with hearts of gold, and he it it again here -- this time with the added enjoyment of keeping us guessing as to what his real history--pre-, during and post-camp--has been.

Also kept guessing as to that history is a military investigator named Sara Simon, played well by the beauteous East German-born actress Antje Traue (below, right, with Bleibtreu ),who is determined to get to the truth of things. Truth, of course, can be difficult to pin down (if not completely non-existent, as in these days of Donald Trump).

So, as Simon investigates and Bermann prevaricates, truth (or something like it) spills out in bits and pieces. Bermann's gang of small-time and very charming shysters, who join their boss in a thriving linen business, are brought to lovely life by a group of fine supporting actors -- each one quite different from the next: by turns funny, sad, silly and surprising.

Jokes play quite a nice part in the film, too, as does a musical instrument called the Theremin. All in all, Bye Bye Germany is lots of fun, with that fun anchored securely to history, humanity and character.

From Film Movement and running 102 minutes, the movie has already opened in theaters around the country, but still seems to have a few playdates remaining. Click here and then scroll down to find a city and/or theater near you. Locally in South Florida the film will open this Friday, May 11, at the Movies of Delray, and then the following Friday, May 18, at the Movies of Lake Worth. Eventually DVD and streaming options will also be available.

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