The Dutch-born Menno Meyjes, best known as the screenwriter who worked for Steven Spielberg in the 80s and cowrote The Siege in the 90s, makes his debut as writer-director with an ambitious but only fitfully successful account of Adolf Hitler during his failed-artist phase. The future fuhrer (Noah Taylor), already making headway in the beer halls with his racial and political invective, is befriended by a Jewish art dealer (John Cusack) who’s lost an arm during World War I and is an invention of Meyjes. The portrait of Hitler is convincing as a kind of intellectual conceit, but the fact that everyone speaks Englishand that period details veer toward postmodernist flourishes meant to remind us of the presentultimately disqualify this Canadian-German-Hungarian coproduction as history. With Leelee Sobieski and Molly Parker. 106 min. (JR)

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