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SNIDE AND PREJUDICE
KPCC Radio --F.X. FEENEY
Writer-director Phillipe Mora has always shown a heightened sensitivity when it comes to the more fantastic and bizarre aspects of peoples inner lives. His best known American movie is Communion, which was memorable because it treated people who claim theyve been kidnapped by UFOs with such gentle and un-judging respect. But Mora is at his best when he deals with the dark side of humanitys imagination. One of his most startling films was the 1970s document, Swastika, which assembled a set of innocuous home movies Eva Braun made during her years of living with Hitler. These images were horrifying because they were so banal; Hitlers deeds are so terrible and consequential that it is easier to simply think of him as a monster, whereas Mora demonstrated quite chillingly that the man was, deep in his own skull, living in fantasyland. Swastika was buried, as a film, but Moras preoccupation with Hitler has remained intense, for highly personal reasons: His father was a French resistance hero, and his mother a survivor of the Nazi camps. Hitlers psyche is a mystery he is determined to illuminate, somehow, some way.
Now Mora has made a second, even wilder and more original attempt on Hitlers life with his new dark comedy, Snide and Prejudice. The setting is a mental clinic where a maverick psychiatrist attempts to cure one of his patients of the delusion that hes Hitler. He supplies him with all the theatrical necessities, like uniforms, prop-weapons, actors to play Eva Braun, Goerring and Goebbels -- and together they all re-enact the dictators life, in a series of historically precise scenes and skits which recount his rise to power. L.A.s Griffith Park is used as as a backdrop, but thats all part of the films energetic hold over ones attention. The viewers imagination is used as a key ingredient in raising one of historys more dreadful poltergeists out of the ordinary daylight of the present, and Mora conjures him with the dizzy scene changes and swift cuts of the Marx Brothers Duck Soup. This is not to say that Hitler is regarded as a joke. Mora uses humor the way Kubrick did in Dr. Strangelove, to strengthen our gaze into the abyss. He succeeds on the strength of his performances. Angus McFayden, who you might remember was Robert the Bruce in Braveheart and Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock, plays the psychotic patient who thinks hes Hitler, and does so with a creepy, brilliant, volcanic command of Hitlers voice and body language. Brion James, so memorable as the biggest of the androids in Blade Runner, does a subtle turn as Goebbels. Hitlers wretched abuse at the hands of his father, his molestation of his underage niece (Mena Suvari), his eagerness to murder whoever is useful -- Jews, communists, or his most devoted supporters -- fuse when he confides to us in tight closeup that "War is the father of all things." Such words, which were taken straight from the horses mouth, as well as the wealth of other insights as Mora offers in this witty and courageous film, feel all the more painfully relevant now that were trying to understand the likes of Sadaam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
--F.X. FEENEY _____ KPCC Radio
the following article is taken form the la weekly website:
SNIDE AND PREJUDICE
The psyche of Adolf Hitler is a 20th-century riddle wed be wise to address: This is the argument mounted with weird zest and scholarly exactitude in Snide and Prejudice, by writer-director Philippe Mora. The setting is a mental clinic where a maverick doctor (Rene Auberjonois) attempts to cure a patient (Angus Macfadyen) of the delusion that hes Hitler by supplying the theatrical necessities (uniforms, prop weapons, actors as Eva Braun, Goering and Goebbels, etc.) to re-enact the dictators life. What follows are historically precise scenes and blackouts recounting Hitlers rise to power, using L.A.s Griffith Park as a backdrop, and rendered with a breakneck pace and swift cuts that recall the Marx Brothers Duck Soup. Mora (son of a camp survivor and a French Resistance hero) by no means suggests that Hitler is a joke — but he uses nightmare comedy, as Kubrick did in Dr. Strangelove, as a lens through which to view madness on a madmans terms, and lucidly identify it as madness. The Marat/Sade irony of setting these scenes in a madhouse helps, but Macfadyens volcanic magnetism and spot-on mimicry of Hitlers body language and speech patterns make insight flesh. (F.X. Feeney)
the following article is taken form the new times website:
Snide and Prejudice An engaging and incisive take on Hitler's rise to power, this black but never bleak comedy plays out in the fictional Temporal Displacement Foundation, where patients believe they are famous historical figures. The standout case (Angus MacFadyen) manifests himself as one hell of a Hitler, with experimental psychologist Dr. Sam Cohen (Rene Auberjonois) immersing him in the role, providing sets, costumes, and even Göring (Brion James), Goebbels (Michael Zelnicker), Eva Braun (T.C. Warner) and Hitler's ill-fated niece, Geli (a dewy Mena Suvari). As a result, what could have been tedious exercise in redundant hand-wringing becomes a sharp, satirical successor to Dr. Strangelove. Writer-director Philippe Mora has focused on nutcases before -- in Death of a Soldier and Communion -- but here, though the history is heavy, the delivery is light. MacFadyen allows us a blithe, indirect approach to his scary alter-ego, and Auberjonois (with his chorus of therapists, including Mickey Cottrell, Joseph Bottoms, Sam Bottoms and Armin Shimerman) sets the stage with aplomb. Inventive and richly researched, it's worth admission just to see Der Führer bickering with Mick Fleetwood as a feisty Pablo Picasso. (Gregory Weinkauf) Opens Friday for one week at the New Beverly.
Snide and Prejudice (NOT RATED)
By Mike Szymanski, Zap2it
Perhaps more an indictment on pop psychiatry than the inner machinations of the mind behind the Nazi regime, "Snide and Prejudice" is a fascinating, complex, whirlwind of characters and nuts, leaving one to wonder if the inmates have taken over the asylum. Rene Auberjonois, known for Odo on TV's "Deep Space Nine," plays a doctor who's treating a group of people who think they're stuck in WWII Germany. From Hitler to minor characters like cabaret performers to two Eva Brauns, they act out their roles in history in a kind of therapy that the doctor thinks will help cure them. The lead nutcase outshines them all as Hitler. Angus Macfayden (from "Braveheart" and TV's "Titus") is riveting as Hitler, shown in his glory, and through his weaknesses. We are taken through the insanity of history's most notorious villain (until recent times), and shown his obvious madness, with the help of the people around him. The amazing character actors surrounding Hitler's delusions include brief roles by Mickey Cottrell, Sam and Joseph Bottoms, Richard Moll and Mena Suvari, playing Hitler's niece who's killed after she wants to end her affair with Adolph. Moody scenes with long pages of dialogue, switching from black-and-white to color, fast cuts back and forth to different scenes and the non-sequential series of events of the Third Reich seem more like gimmicks than carefully planned moments in the film, but Philippe Mora proves himself as an auteur with a film like this and someone to watch out for as he's taken on such a formidable topic. Some may be incensed, mortified and angry about the flippancy of humor used in regard to Hitler, but through it all, whether real or fantasy, the true insanity shines through loud and clear.
Snide and Prejudice
reviewed by Brent Simon
I know what youre thinking, but no, Snide and Prejudice is not a Zucker-style skewering of Jane Austen. A serio-comic tale of the absurd, Phillippe Moras film is set, ostensibly, in the Temporal Displacement Foundation, a very unique clinic for the mentally ill whose chief practitioner, Dr. Samuel Cohen (Rene Auberjonois, looking downright avuncular without all that Deep Space Nine latex glued to his dome), advocates therapeutic play-acting in an attempt to exorcise his patients demons and roust them from their "psycho-historical schizophrenia."
And just what is psycho-historical schizophrenia? Well, its what makes Dr. Cohens most magnificently delusional charge, Michael Davidson (Angus Macfadyen), think hes none other than Adolf Hitler. In theory, there are two parallel stories here: one of a doctors earnest efforts to cure a highly troubled individual; the other, unfolding in a loosely structured flashback interview (with that nutty lady from PBS who always wears berets), a play-acted version of the story of Hitlers rise to power in the years leading into World War II. In reality though (pun unintended), the film lacks the narrative discipline to treat the first as much more than clever set-up, and so it gravitates toward the latter, which is a much more interesting tack anyway.
Curiously, you dont bear this shortcoming of construction too much of a grudge. Sure, its a dubious leap of imagination that allows for Cohens "therapy" to be rounded out by equally delusional patients playing the parts of Goering, Goebbels, Hess, Gali Rabaul and others (after all, who dreams of being Hitlers niece?). Yet Snide and Prejudice brushes this concern aside, and its this very refraction-along with a breezy, theater-in-the-round aesthetic-that makes the presentation of a de facto budget biopic of Adolf Hitler much more acceptable. (Hitlers life may make for a compelling story, but youll never see a big budget rendering - can you imagine the public relations nightmare?)
Mora, whose diverse body of work includes everything from the documentaries Brother Can You Spare a Dime and Communion to the first two Howling sequels, has a fairly inobstrusive touch, letting his actors-and Cohen, his stand-in-set the scenes themselves. And some of those scenes are quite amusing; sessions are interrupted at various times when "Hitlers" uniform is at the dry cleaners, Davidson stumbles into a room full of Christs and also when Mick Fleetwood wanders by as an out-of-scene Picasso.
Yet for all its artful imagination, its still the acting that most recommends Snide and Prejudice. Macfadyen, who has had plenty of experience tackling historical figures (Robert Bruce in Braveheart, Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock, Peter Lawson in HBOs The Rat Pack), gives a vivid and maniacal full-throttle performance, at times quite funny but always unsettling in its creepy, twisted logic. Snide and Prejudice isnt a perfect film, but it is bold, enveloping and fantastically thought-provoking. And with self-righteous fanaticism back on the front pages, its unfortunately timely as well. (FocusFilm, unrated, starts Nov. 9, New Beverly)