“THE FAREWELL PARTY”— Knowing When to Say Goodbye

the farwell party

“The Farewell Party” (“Mita Tova”)

Knowing When to Say Goodbye

Amos Lassen

“The Farewell Party” is a dark comedy about compassion, friendship and knowing when to say goodbye. Set at a retirement home in Jerusalem, we meet a group of friends who build a machine for self-euthanasia in order to help their terminally ill friend. When rumors of the machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the friends are faced with an emotional dilemma.

Yehezkel (Ze’ev Revach) and his wife Levana (Levana Finklestein) are in their 70s, and live a comfortable life inside a Jerusalem retirement home. But when their friend Max falls prey to an irreversible illness, they face a terrible shock. Max asks Yehezkel to help him die with dignity, Yehezkel, a longtime amateur inventor, rises to the challenge by constructing a machine that will allow Max to self-administer a lethal dose of tranquilizers. However, Levana believes that such a device is immoral, and expresses her passionate disapproval. But when Levana herself begins to face a serious health issue, Yehezkel finds that his feelings about his new contraption become increasingly complicated.

the farewell party

In our contemporary culture, death is something of a taboo. We certainly shy away from talking about it so it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to see a movie about the end of life. Yet “The Farewell Party” is a very good movie with something to say.

We look at death here from a different point of view. We are in a nursing home where some but old people face a fading existence. We face the question of who benefits from prolonging the suffering of a terminally ill patient who only asks that somebody would please pull the plug on him? Why deny to him a compassionate gesture that is conversely so easily granted to an animal?

Israeli culture is very aware of how simple it was, in a time so still painfully close, to slip from a gentle death that is afforded to the terminally ill and go to the forced euthanasia imposed on the mentally ill as it was in Nazi Germany.

Directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit maintain a safe distance from these cultural considerations.  Likewise they do not look at religious issues involved but if they had the topic probably would have been a good deal easier to deal with. Instead, they tell a quick story that is constructed around a group of characters. An interesting aspect of the film is that it is centered on an “eternal carousel” that is moving and caught between the need for moral imperatives and free will and this is no easy task.

the farewell party2

Here is the basic storyline—- a group of friends at a Jerusalem nursing home try to put an end to the suffering of a friend who is terminally ill. One of them builds a machine that can deliver a painless death. The machine is totally automatic and the patient himself can start it when he is ready to do so by just pushing one button and in doing he releases the others of the responsibility of causing death.

Soon rumors about this machine start spreading among the other nursing home residents and it did not take long before other terminally ill residents begin to request access to the machine. The story does not resolve the existential dilemma by searching for an abstract thesis, but rather it lets it form in each single frame. The directors provide a series of stories around the ethical question, and each story is capable of taking charge of a moral direction, each represents an individual destiny. Ione of those stories happens to be of a little old lady including the story of the little old lady who never accepts death and advocates for life at all costs.

We see one character whose fate is loose whatever memory she has of herself to Alzheimer’s. She watches recordings that include the final and last statements just before they push the button in order to end their lives. We see a cinematic picture that defies the passing of time, and the slow fading away of the individual conscience. Herein is the expression of a question that invests the very sense of the function of the audio-visual medium in contemporary society. There is no argument that the questions and themes here are high drama yet, the film is paced in the spirit of comedy. It goes beyond black comedy and re-establishes the dominant status-quo cultural values.

There are two ways, at least, to think about the film. Some will see it as blasphemous and maintain that only God has the right and to power to create and to take away life. We can also see it as a courageous attempt to change the way stories are told. As a film, it strongly asserts only real life can assert poetry that can have us laugh or cry with no contradiction.

It’s a film that firmly asserts the conviction that poetry can only be where we can find the real Life that makes us laugh and cry at the same time, without there being any contradiction. An interesting note about this film is that the majority of the cast is made up of former stars of Israeli movies who are now at the age of the residents in the Jerusalem retirement home. Aside from those already mentioned we see Aliza Rosen and Ilan Dar.

 

 

“DRAG BECOMES HIM”—A Documentary about Jinkx Monsoon

drag becomes him-

“DRAG BECOMES HIM”

A Documentary about Jinkx Monsoon

Amos Lassen

Jinkx Monsoon stars in the documentary “Drag Becomes Him” by director Alex Berry that will be having its to world premiere in Seattle, Washington on April 29, 2015.

Jinkx was the winner of season five of LOGO TV’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. “Based on a series of short films made by Berry and Jerick Hoffer, Jinkx’s boyish half both before and after the filming of RPDR, the film chronicles the path of Jinkx/Jerick from their hometown of Portland, Oregon, to Cornish College of the Arts here in Seattle and the establishment of their drag career in the clubs and bars of Capitol Hill. Along the way, you’ll hear Jinkx/Jerick tell the story of their journey with the help of family, friends, and co-stars giving their own testimony. For Seattle fans, it will be a special treat as dozens of familiar faces will appear in the film which also features “Seattle” as a major character in the story, as showcased by the gorgeous night time camera work of director Alex Berry.”

Drag Becomes Him is a behind-the-scenes foray into the personality and passion of entertainer Jerick Hoffer, also known as Jinkx Monsoon, a drag queen Seattle’s The Stranger dubs “the best f**king performer in Seattle.” The cherished original series will be expanded to include additional footage and an entirely new edit, offering an even deeper glimpse into the life of this charming, Gregory Award-winning, off-Broadway-performing, RuPaul’s Drag Race-winning, all-around lovable drag superstar. Drag Becomes Him is directed by Alex Berry and produced by Basil Shadid and Dual Power Productions. Jerick Hoffer (aka Jinkx Monsoon) is a seasoned Portland-born entertainer and graduate of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. As early as 2006, he appeared as the lead dancer in the world’s largest drag queen chorus line, which made the Guinness Book of World Records. By 2012, he had advanced to roles in Seattle theaters, playing Moritz in Spring Awakening (Balagan Theatre) and Angel in RENT”.

“’Drag Becomes Him’” provides an intimate glimpse inside the life of internationally acclaimed drag performer Jinkx Monsoon. This raw and affectionate film follows the passionate pursuits that transformed a working class boy in a struggling family to an illustrious performer on a global stage.

“Influenced by a grandmother with charm school polish, Jerick Hoffer learned to fuse the sophistication of a southern belle with the crass behavior of a working girl. Jinkx Monsoon has what RuPaul describes as “a stage left, off center kind of quality.””

Drag Becomes Him follows Jinkx’s trajectory from a small stage in Portland, Oregon through a growing career in Seattle to the relinquishing of the crown one year after winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Expanded from the acclaimed five-part web series of the same name, this cherished portrayal of Jinkx Monsoon peels back the layers on one of the brightest stars on the drag circuit.

 

 

“CAN’T STAND LOSING YOU: SURVIVING ‘THE POLICE'”— The Rise and the Fall

can't stop losing you poster

“Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police”

The Rise and the Fall

Amos Lassen

cant1

The new documentary, “Can’t Stop Losing You” is based on the memoir of Andy Summers, guitarist for the band, The Police. It follows Summers’ journey from his early days in the psychedelic ‘60s music scene, when he played with The Animals, to chance encounters with drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist Sting, which led to the formation of a punk trio, The Police. During the band’s phenomenal rise and its dissolution at the height of their popularity in the early ’80s, Summers captured history with his candid photographs.

81186313EM001_The_Police_An

The film uses rare archival footage and insights from the guitarist’s side of the stage and it brings together past and present as the band members reunite, two decades later, for a global reunion tour in 2007.

cant3

Andy Summers is the quiet one in the band and he is less comfortable with the spotlight than singer/bassist Sting, and more reserved than drummer Stewart Copeland. Summers was a wunderkind and late bloomer, immersed in London’s Swinging Sixties music scene by his early twenties, but not achieving his own success until nearly forty. (In footage from the Eighties, his decade-younger bandmates try to convince one interviewer that the Andy Summers who played with the Animals and Soft Machine was actually his father.)

Through disappointment and stardom, Summers reads passages from his memoir in calm, deliberate voiceover. Experienced editor and first-time director Grieve weaves in footage of the Police’s 2007 reunion tour (compiled by Lauren Lazin), creating the feeling that Summers is walking in his own footsteps.

cant4

We see here how the Police’s genre-defying sound resulted from three distinct styles (and egos) bashing together.

“THE GREAT MUSEUM” (“Das Grosse Museum”)— The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

the great museum“THE GREAT MUSEUM” (“Das Grosse Museum”)   

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Amos Lassen

Kunsthistorisches Museum (literally translated as ‘Museum of Art History’) in Vienna was opened in 1891 by Franz Joseph I in order to find a grand home for the Habsburgs’ formidable art collection. “The Great Museum” is an unprecedented look at what makes one of the largest museums in the world work and it touches on everything from restoration and visitor services to font choices for marketing materials and budget wrangling. Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum is home to masterpieces by Raphael, Rubens and Vermeer, as well as extensive collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, arms and armor, and musical instruments. Director Johannes Holzhausen, an art historian, was given seemingly unrestricted access to the museum’s myriad of different departments during 2012 and 2013.

the great museum1

The film begins as the museum is preparing to close for a facelift – paintings are removed from the walls and packed away into storage, sculptures are dusted down in their most intimate areas, and display cases are meticulously wiped. Work begins to renovate the rooms and the contractors move in. They break up flooring, remove wallpaper and re-plaster. The director of the museum, Sabine Haag, takes Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, on a tour of the work in progress. MacGregor is clearly impressed by Haag’s vision, noting that the British Museum cannot match the Kunsthistorisches Museum for exhibition spaces with a history so closely related to the works they contain.

The film is both a fond and scathing documentary. Along with his camera crew, Holzhausen went behind the scenes to explore one of Vienna’s (and the world’s) leading museums, which manages the cultural legacy of the Habsburg dynasty. It is a difficult legacy, says one of the participants. How can one present this art, largely produced to assert and reinforce the power of the Habsburg dynasty (one of the most important royal houses in Europe from the 11th through the 18th centuries), in a contemporary way? How can it help inspire people today? The cautious response of one museum employee—“Well, the glass cabinets are modern”—points to a real problem.

The Vienna museum complex is not only a site devoted to preserving the past, it is also a business enterprise. It stands in competition with other museums and cultural institutions around the world yet it is subject to a rigid finance plan and has undergone budget cuts.

The workers who are greatly dedicated and they ensure that works of art are available to the public day after day. Again and again, Holzhausen shows artwork in the hands of employees in the process of transportation, examination or restoration. The existence of such works is entirely dependent on the careful attention and respect paid by these workers.

We learn that the priority was the custody and maintenance of the objects for future generations. This was the thinking that lay behind the museums founded in the 19th century. Since the 1990s, museums have increasingly had to fall into line with the priorities dictated by neoliberal economics.

the great museum2

Until the mid-1990s, Austrian museums were subsidized by the state. Then they were converted into institutions competing on the free market with a basic grant from the state. This grant has not been increased since then, meaning that the museums have to generate more and more income. Holzhausen stripped away the gilded veneer of this Viennese museum to show how it works.

The film shows the opulent galleries, empty save for the cleaning staff, who are removing every last speck of dirt while in adjacent rooms, workers tear off plaster and dig up floors readying the rooms for a total redesign. Then we see the directors of the museum, planning the new advertising and logos, attempting to buy new artworks and organizing events or photo opportunities with government ministers upon whose subsidies the museum depends. Every aspect of what it takes to establish and run a major museum is given a brief spotlight, collecting a series of small episodes within the context of this major project.

These day-to-day activities are captured using the approach of direct cinema. By presenting things as they happen without any framing or bias allows the events to just be without interference. Whether the viewer enjoys the film or not depends upon his/her appreciation for direct cinema or an acceptance of non-narrative driven film. The images are the real strength here, with Holzhausen’s background in art history suiting the subject matter perfectly. There really are some incredibly well framed shots and intricate moves that show the director’s familiarity with the camera and an ability to provoke an emotion or a thought through interesting framing or a smooth dolly shot. There is something wonderfully fascinating about being invited behind the scenes of a particular world to see what makes it tick, to see the lives of people whom were previously unknown yet whose work can be witnessed in all its lavish glory.

“SHE MUST BE SEEING THINGS”— Jo and Agatha

she must be seeing things poster

“She Must Be Seeing Things”

Jo and Agatha

Amos Lassen

Jo and Agatha are lovers. They both have promising careers: the Brazilian-born Agatha is an attorney; Jo is a filmmaker and she is working hard to complete the shooting of a movie, “Catalina.” Agatha is jealous and convinced that Jo is having an affair with a man and she decided to follow her one night. However, is she following Jo or is it someone who looks like her.  She may be seeing things: she’s jealous, convinced Jo is having an affair with a man and follows her. Agatha sees Jo as either too exhausted to pay much attention to her or else she’s hiding this affair. In the movie within a movie we see some of “Catalina,” and it comes across as being a melodrama. When Agatha watches the movie she thinks that she sees Jo in scenes with sex and violence instead of the person who is playing the lead actress.

This is a strange movie but it is fascinating with odd acting and weird music. None of it seems to fit together and this is probably why I found it so interesting. We all know that expression, “so bad that it is good”.

The plot is basically simple so why does it come across as difficult to understand? There is no overall theme and at times it is quite mysterious. Why, for example, does Jo write by conquests with men in her diary when she is involved in a love affair with a woman? How is it that she left her diary out so that Agatha could find it and read it? This is more like a home movie than anything else and it is a low budget film. There are some graphic lesbian sex scenes so you might want to watch before you host a showing. The story is quite interesting but the acting is quite heavy at times. As to whether the questions are answered, you will have to see the movie to find out.

“Prayers for the Living: A Novel” by Alan Cheuse— Conversations

prayers for the living

Cheuse, Alan. “Prayers for the Living: A Novel”, Fig Tree Books; Reissue edition, 2015.

Conversations

Amos Lassen

 “Prayers for the Living” is written in a series of conversations between grandmother Minnie Bloch and her companions. Author Alan Cheuse is National Public Radio’s commentator on All Things Considered whose novel is about a layered family portrait of three generations of the Bloch family. Minnie’s son, Manny is a renowned, almost legendary rabbi who is respected by his congregants and surrounded by family yet no one suspects that he yearns for a life of greater personal glory. When a prophetic bird delivers what Manny believes to be a message from his deceased father and he leaves his congregation to pursue a life in business during his entire life spirals out of control.

Manny’s fortunes grow in the corporate world and at the same time he is in the midst of an affair with a congregant, a Holocaust survivor. Manny’s wife spirals down deeper into alcoholism and depression and his daughter, traumatized by a sexual scandal at college, makes Manny the target of a plot to shatter his empire. Minnie, the family matriarch, tells the story of the ruin of her family, a family she does not have the power or the way to save them from themselves. observes and recounts the tragic downfall of her family, unable to save them from themselves. The clear message is that money cannot buy everything, and especially not happiness.

Cheuse writes about the themes of betrayal and its impact, the loss of innocence, money and happiness and its loss. Manny Bloch, after leaving his job as a rabbi, becomes a very successful businessman and his story is about the lack of fulfillment.

Minnie Bloch tells his story to various friends and to his mistress and ultimately to his daughter, who played a role in unmasking him to the world. Her observations are exacting and at times lyrical yet serious. She has a strong voice and she takes up for her son and even says that his deceased father, who Manny claims to hear speaking to him through birds at pivotal life points, encouraged him to make some of his life altering choices. The book, at first, seems to be well written but the verbosity of the language becomes tiring after a while yet I did manage to finish the entire book.

It is interesting to note that this is the third time the book has been published and this newest edition has an introduction by Tova Mirvis but that did nothing for me. An introduction by Marcel Proust or James Joyce would not make the book a better read and I find the use of Mirvis to be a slick sales technique that unfortunate does nothing for her name or for the book.

“COMING HOME: Season 2″— Coming Home

coming out season 2

“Coming Out: Season 2”

Coming Home

Amos Lassen

Matt has just come home from a year-and-a-half working in New York and he realizes that running away only makes problems worse. Caroline has had several changes, none of which were under her control. She is working on a case about Ariane, a young drug dealer who knows how to upset her. Oliver and Hugo are living as a family and understand that their lives and boring and this is because routine governs the way that they live. They try to reclaim the passion they once shared and hope that new experiences will have a positive effect on their relationship. This is where season 2 begins and, of course, it helps that you have season but if you have not, you will be able to follow the action.

Below is a summary of the individual episodes:

Episode 1—18 months later (from the previous season), the lives of Matt, Caroline, Hugo, Geneviève and Olivier have changed a lot but is it for the best?

Episode 2— Having just returned from New York, Matt comes to terms with the changes in his entourage. Will Caroline continue to get worse?

Episode 3—Caroline quickly discovers that a single mistake made turns into many problems.

Episode 4—Matt is confronted with his old problems. Will Hugo be able to juggle between gay parenting and his old routine?

Episode 5— Still wanting to help, Caroline realizes that the problem is perhaps Ariane. Curiosity will bring Hugo to see his relationship in a new way.

Episode 6— Hugo admits what happened to Matt. Nicholas feels that Ian is becoming more remote.

Episode 7— When Matt receives an unexpected visit, Ariane sees his world collapse.

Episode 8— Olivier makes an interesting proposal to Hugo. Will it be the same for Genevieve?

Episode 9— Ian continues to play a dangerous game. Will Genevieve be willing to accept this new adventure?

Episode 10— Matt has no choice but to take control of his life. Mary receives a visitor to the gallery.

Episode 11— Return to the source provides Matt with the reality of things. Olivier tries to convince Genevieve, but is it the right way?

Episode 12— Another chapter ends for Matt but a new challenge has arrived. Will Genevieve accept the offer while a true friendship is created?

“FLAWLESS”— An Unlikely Arrangement

flawless

“FLAWLESS”

An Unlikely Arrangement

Amos Lassen

(Now on Blu ray)

 When Walter Koontz (Robert DeNiro), the once highly decorated police officer suffers a stroke while attempting to aid a neighbor, he receives a prescription of an unorthodox form of therapy to help him overcome a resulting speech impediment. The suggested therapy becomes even more unorthodox when Walter asks his neighbor, Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a flamboyant drag queen with some musical talent and a person who has received some nasty remarks from Walter the past for help. The arrangement that seemed like it had no chance of working softened into a grudging friendship. Joel Schumacher both wrote and directed the film, quite an offbeat story.

In an attempt to try to get his voice back Walter’s doctor, recommended that he take singing lessons and Walter decides to ask his neighbor, Rusty, to teach him how to sing. We see the themes of hatred, bigotry and reconciliation throughout. Walter learns through his disability who his friends really are, and who they are not. He begins to realize that the people he hates treat him a lot better than the people he thought he loved. He learns how to look past his prejudices to find the human elements that make him and Rusty to not be so different after all. This backs my thoughts that hate, in many cases, is the result of not feeling comfortable or not really knowing other person. We must also remember that hate is not an instinct and that we learn to hate.

This film is an excellent character study of both main characters, giving a lot of insight into the motivations and lives of each. Shumacher, unfortunately, allowed himself to be sidetracked by bringing in characters that do not add to the action and really have nothing to contribute to the story. If the story had not meandered so much, it would have been even more powerful than it is. Rusty’s friends, for example, really have nothing to do with what is going on.

Robert DeNiro, as we all know, is a class one actor and he gives quite an emotional performance as a man whose life changes drastically because of a stroke. The way he portrays his sudden debilitating illness is amazing. The combination of his struggles to do the simplest of tasks and the obvious look of anguish and frustration on his face was poignant and affecting. Hoffman does a fine job imitating a drag queen even though at times it seems forced and a bit unnatural.

Hoffman brought a lot of emotional energy to his part, and his imitation of a drag queen was passable, though somewhat forced and unnatural. This is a film that helps us understand that the remedy for the fear that comes out of our differences is understanding and not hatred. It was fun watching the two characters getting to know each other. In the beginning of the film and their relationship as friends we hear the typical homophobic slur Rusty always seems to have a comeback to whatever Walter says. Most of these are funny but there is also a great seriousness there.

This is not a movie that gives an overall look at the LGBT community. We do see what some may call “typical behavior” for drag queens (notice that I use the term “drag queens instead of the newly more formal term of “transvestites” because we do not really see much formality when they get together to rehearse).

We suspect early on that DeNiro will come out of this arrangement as a better and more tolerant man and he does but that’s not the end of the story. There is another plot that includes drug deals and stolen money that comes up against the gay community and the drag queens, prostitutes gay, straight and trans, and both honest and dishonest cops. The film is at tines very funny and at times very sad. It is not new in the movies to have a gay man and a straight man become friends and here it is handled with style. You do not want to miss it.

“FLATMATES”— Friendship, Love or Both?

flatmates

“Flatmates”

Friendship, Love or Both?

 Is there more than friendship in the love between two male friends?s Many people still wonder today, it questions whether exceptionally close male friendships may contain something sexual that neither person wants to fully admit.

In “Flatmates” we meet two friends, Björn and Hampus, decide to move in together. If one ignores the fact that the two men are completely different, theirs is a close relationship. Being in love with your best friend and, in spite of this, or because of it, arguing to the point where it becomes unbearable.’

It’s a great film, which does a good job of initially making you wonder whether the building sexual tension is real or whether it’s just there because the viewer wants it to be. However as it continues things do inevitably reach boiling point when the men end up in bed together.

“The Empire of the Senses” by Alexis Landau— Duty, Passion and Family Between the Wars

the empire of the senses

Landau, Alexis, “The Empire of the Senses: A Novel “, Pantheon, 2015.

Duty, Passion and Family Between the Wars

Amos Lassen

Lev Perlmutter is an assimilated, cultured German Jew who enlists to fight in World War I and leaves behind his wife, Josephine, a gentile, and their children, Franz and Vicki. The story is told from two points of view— Lev and Josephine’s. The first part of the novel deals with Lev’s experiences on the Eastern Front (both in war and in love). In the second part of the novel, we go to Berlin during 1927–28. The Perlmutter children are now and they have questions that they struggle with. Franz is drawn into the Nazi brown shirt movement and struggles with his unexpressed homosexuality and Vicki is seduced by the Jazz Age and everything new. She falls in love with a man who wants to take her to Palestine. When we first begin reading, we suspect (at least I did) that the Holocaust that is looming on the horizon would become part of the story. But this is not about the Holocaust; rather it is about events that lead up to it and why it was unthinkable to regular people like Lev and Josephine. We read of the loss of culture and ethnic hatred and how they share space and thoughts with love, power and the human spirit.

The story is set basically in Berlin and in other places that include western Russia, Argentina, and Palestine. In effect, the novel is about Berliners and about the Jewish/Christian family of Lev Perlmutter and his wife, Josephine, and their two children. This is a story about a “mixed marriage” and the love affairs for others who are not part of that family.

It was thought that the First World War would be over quickly and the soldiers thought that they would be home by Christmas. The reason Lev joined the war effort was to prove to his family (who are Christian) that he was a good German even though he was raised Jewish.

He was sent to the Russian front as a medic and while there he met Leah, a young Jewish woman and he fell in love with her. He returned home and to his assimilation when the war was over and then his family began to fall apart.

While in Mitau, a village in Lithuania, Lev reexamines his Jewish roots as a result of his having met Leah. Leah is what brings Lev back to being Jewish and she is in great contrast to his wife. When he gets home, he cannot forget her and he realizes that his life in Berlin is nothing like the kind of life he could have with Leah. His family is having troubles— Josephine undergoes psychoanalysis and that was new at that time, Franz becomes involved in the Nazi brown shirt movement, and Vicki thinks like and acts as a flapper with all the freedom in the world.

At that time German Jews were they more prosperous and seemingly accepted; they made great strides in law, academia, medicine, and business. But something was happening and there were signs of the oncoming trouble. There was what was called the “Jewish census” that was conducted during World War I to make sure Jews were fulfilling in their military duty, and the Nazi party was testing its strength with members of the SA, the Nazi militia. As readers, we know what is coming and when the family makes a stop in Nuremberg while coming home from a family trip, they see some of it. They watch a young woman’s head being shaved as punishment for having been with a Jewish male. The family splits into two camps as a result. Lev is truly upset while Josephine sees it as meaningless. Of course, she does not realize what the implications might be for her as a Christian married to a Jew. But then she is already detached from her husband and feeling obsession for her German analyst.

Vicki is in love with an ardent young Zionist named Geza and is contemplating going with him to Palestine and is learning about her Jewish heritage. Franz, on the other hand, does everything he can to hide his Jewish identity and is an advocate of the Nazi movement and philosophy. We see that his motivation is not based on Nazi ideology but rather on the love he feels for his best friend who is a sadistic and brutal guy. Nazism gives him a way to hide his sexuality.

Looking once again at the family that Landau draws so wonderfully we see that it is composed of a gay, self-hating Jew, a self-absorbed woman who no longer loves her husband, a young woman in search of something she cannot find at home and a thoughtful man who has learned to accept and deal with the many mistakes he has made in his life.

Alexis Landau does a good job at individualizing her characters. None are caricatures though the son, Franz, is both gay and self-hating of his Jewish side. Josephine is a self-absorbed narcissist and the love between Lev and her blossomed and then died. Vicki is a typical searching young woman. But the most interesting character in Landau’s novel is Lev Perlmutter, a thoughtful man who has to come to terms with the mistakes he’s made in his life. It’s around Lev that Landau has put most of the novel’s action.

There is another major character—the city of Berlin that is in a state of constant change. This is a big and beautifully written book; one that I found hard to believe that is the Alexis Landau’s first novel. I am sure we will be hearing more from her.