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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

GENGHIS COHN

This BBC telefilm (find it in BBC’s Diana Rigg DVD Collection) is a near miss, but an interesting one. A Post-Holocaust Dybbuk tale (taken from a Romain Gary novel), it follows the restless ghost (dybbuk in Yiddish) of a Jewish Music Hall comedian/ventriloquist (Anthony Sher) who returns from the dead to haunt his unpunished killer. Solid & de-Nazified, his target is now a police inspector (Robert Lindsay) working on a serial murder case. But as his interactions with the invisible dybbuk grow ever more peculiar, he starts to look like a prime suspect. He’s also starting an affair with war widow and Nazi fetishist Diana Rigg, a tough proposition with a dybbuk kibitzing on the side. Delicate material, nu? Yet the problem isn’t that the film goes too far toward inappropriate response, but that it doesn’t go far enough. It needs daring; it needs bad taste; it needs to be unafraid of being A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY BACK FROM DACHAU. (It needs a close look at Lubitsch’s TO BE OR NOT TO BE/’42.) Sher is also hampered by not having funnier material to help the conceit work. But Lindsay is superb in his impossible role as the detective, technique turning into character as he slowly takes on his avenging angel’s personality. And, as a bonus, young Daniel Craig shows up as Lindsay’s ambitious underling.

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