Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Japanese title: Adolf no Gashu
Director: Menno Meyjes
Running time: 108 minutes
Language: English
Currently showing
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With his debut feature, "Max," director Menno Meyjes takes us back to the Germany of 1918, in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Demobilized veterans, some horribly wounded, wander the frosty streets, jobless and dispirited. Poverty is endemic, resentment roils, especially after the Treaty of Versailles imposes crippling, humiliating reparations on the defeated nation. Amid this turmoil, a small figure wanders the streets in a threadbare overcoat, a portfolio tucked under his arm: It's Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), just back from the war, and at this point in his life, literally a starving artist.

On the other side of town is Max Rothman (John Cusack), an art dealer running a gallery in an abandoned factory, selling radical Futurist works. Unlike Hitler, Max came back to a loving wife, and a wealthy and supportive family, but like Hitler, he fought in the trenches at Ypres, where he lost an arm in battle.

From this shared experience, a tentative, tense friendship is formed between these two very different men. Hitler hates modern art ("The next time I have diarrhea, I'll shit on a canvas and bring it over to you"), he sneers at Max who's championing the expressive, wild works of Grosz, Klee and Kandinsky. Max is unabashedly decadent, forgetting the war through wine and women, while Hitler chooses not to forget, his rage egged on by rightwing army officers fomenting reactionary rebellion. Max believes the war was pointless and horrific; Hitler sees it as glorious, necessary. And then there's the real kicker: Max is Jewish.