Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie with Abe: Bye Bye Germany

Bye Bye Germany
Directed by Sam Garbarski
Released April 27, 2018

Comedy having to do with the Holocaust is a tough sell. Though certain films have succeeded, like the Oscar-winning “Life is Beautiful” and the campy Danish thriller “Black Book,” it’s not an easy genre, and certainly one that attains a good deal of controversy. The documentary “The Last Laugh” is devoted entirely to whether such fare is appropriate. Trying to find some humor in survival, here’s the latest attempt, bearing the tagline “a post-war comedy with chutzpah.”

In 1946 Frankfurt, David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu) is living in a displaced persons camp and hoping to start a new life. With a few other Jews seeking to make enough to move to America, David begins selling linens to Germans, targeting those who may be particularly susceptible to their sales technique, commanding absurd prices and getting some symbolic revenge in the process. As his business booms, David meets with an American Army investigator (Antje Traue) who has questions for him about how he survived being in a camp and spins her the tale of how his knack for telling jokes earned him special treatment.

There is a sense at the start of this film that Bermann in particular doesn’t seem to have endured the horrors of the Holocaust, going about his daily life with a sarcastic but optimistic attitude towards the world. The way in which Bermann gets his operation off the ground and is able to cheat Germans is a far less destructive form of self-satisfaction than something like “Inglourious Basterds,” and it makes some sense that those who suffered unthinkable horrors at the hands of the Nazis might aim merely for the prosperity that they are able to attain, making this a logical if unspectacular path for them to follow after the end of the war.

Bleibtreu is certainly charismatic, bearing a striking resemblance to American actor Thomas Sadoski at times. His narration of what happened to him, given as testimony during the investigation, is what makes the film most interesting. Ultimately, however, its story isn’t as resonant or amusing as it sets out to be, and this film, though not terribly offensive or edgy, hardly makes the case for any sort of Holocaust-based humor. Though it’s not resounding, it’s also relatively benign and harmless, showcasing one interpretation of what starting a new life with all that’s left could look like.


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