From the Chicago Reader (April 12, 1991). — J.R.
It’s a pity that Jerry Schatzberg’s most recent picture — and one of his very best — has had to wait two years for its Chicago premiere. Adapted by Harold Pinter from a novel by Fred Uhlman, and shot in ‘Scope by Bruno De Keyzer, this French-English-West German production is a story about a Jewish lawyer in New York (Jason Robards) who’s returning to Stuttgart, Germany, after a 55-year absence to discover what happened during the early 30s to his best friend (Samuel West) — an ambassador’s son who didn’t share the racism of his aristocratic family. Most of the story is told in flashback (Christien Anholt plays the hero as a youth), and much of what’s impressive about its unfolding is the meticulous re-creation of Germany during the rise of Nazism (the superb production design is by the great Alexandre Trauner, who appears in a cameo in a warehouse office), as well as a sensitive (and perhaps timely) depiction of how the gradual changes in national thinking were reflected in everyday life. It’s a story that’s been told before, but seldom with such feeling for detail and nuance; one has to adjust to the curious mix between English dialogue and street signs in German, but the performances — including those by Francoise Fabian, Maureen Kerwin, Barbara Jefford, and Bert Parnaby in small parts — are impeccable (1989). Read more