Tag Archives: memory loss

The Great Dictator: A Nazi Slap to Hitler

In another vein, for a different class, I watched Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. I gotta tell ya, this is a completely different pace in comparison to the movies I usually watch. I’m all about movies after 1970, the color films, the 100 minute movies. I’m not usually up for the 2 hour black and white snore fests. But this one was at least a bit different. Hey dad, looks like I’m growing up a bit with a little taste of cultured film.

The Great Dictator is the story of a note so great dictator, Adolph Hitler. Cleverly renamed as Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie Chaplin mirrors the rise of Hitler into power and his subsequent actions in his self appointed office. Parallel to this is an image of Chaplin’s Tramp character, the

It’s just too uncanny…

Jewish barber. After having served during World War I, the barber lost his memory and didn’t realize the war had been lost or that Hynkel had been put into power. The persecution of the Jews is underplayed in this movie (it seems as if they’re not treated that poorly), and Chaplin later apologized after finding out about the concentration camps. A depressing issue indeed.

The parts that make this movie funny is only about half of the film. There’s Chaplin’s speech as Hynkel, accurately mimicking Hitler’s wimpy return salute, and the German language and Hitler’s oratory style is dead on. The short English retorts are perfect and simply explain just what Hitler was up to. The bumbling idiots of Hynkel’s cabinet, characterized by Henry Daniell as “Garbage” and Billy Gilbert as “Herring”, strongly insinuate Himmler and

Too legit.

Goebbels (maybe some Goreing thrown in there). The floating globe is amazing and the slapstick is always good. I had no idea how much of a comedic genius Charlie Chaplin was.

The other half of the movie contains the plot. And I found it to be a very uninteresting one. The Jewish barber falls in love with a Jewish washing woman, and the Nazi Gestapo harass her and the barber all day long. After finding the man whose life he saved in the war, the barber befriends Schultz (Reginald Gardiner) and sets about a coup in order to kill Hynkel (if only they had…). Things go wrong, identities are mistaken, and Chaplin (the barber) gives a profound speech at the end, one I felt was directed right at Hitler. Coming out in 1940, this movie, viewed twice by Hitler, was a plea to stop the war. If only it had succeeded.

A lot of the stuff in older movies like this feel the same to me. The long credits at the beginning, the old time music, the higher pitched male voices and long shots, it’s all a constant. I have to admit I was a bit sleepy after this one. But the subject matter and slapstick are what really saved it for me. It was an

A love made in boredom?

extremely clever spoof of Hitler’s Nazi regime and spoke a lot to the things I’ve been learning about in my Holocaust class. I would recommend this one to history buffs and fans of old films, because this one is one of those classics (if you can’t get a hold of an actual copy, check out YouTube for the whole film). Not exactly my style, but I still appreciate it. 7.3 out of 10.

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Unknown: The Unrelated Sequel to Taken

As with Taken, Liam Neeson leaves his comfort zone yet again as an action star. This classic Irish actor assumes the role of an American with a sophisticated upper class NorthEastern accent to kick some more ass. I don’t know how this all happened, but out of nowhere, Liam Neeson became a huge action star at the ripe old age of 56. It may have started in 2005 with Batma Begins, who knows. But the world (Hollywood) decided it was time for a 50+ year old man to be the star of oh so many action films. In his latest to be released, Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a biochemical engineer on a getaway convention in Berlin, Germany.

With The Grey to be released soon, I had to see Unknown before I could begin to handle Neeson bottle knifing wolves in the forest wilderness of Alaska. (I think that’s where it is…) By the suggestion of my mother (weird it isn’t just my own volition, huh?) I sat down with some Taco Bell and delved into something I wasn’t entirely ready for.

Aww, what a quaint father and daughter... I mean couple...

Dr. Martin Harris is a well to do scientist in Germany on business. He has decided to take his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) on this wonderful little convention at a well to do hotel in Berlin. (My mother suggested this movie to me because I speak German decently and enjoyed Germany.) Upon arrival, Martin Harris (he will frequently and forcefully refer to himself as such throughout the film) forgets his briefcase at the airport. Catching a cab back to retrieve it, Harris is involved in an unfortunate accident that takes him off a bridge (homage to Bourne Supremacy insert here) and loses his memory (continue Bourne reference).

WHO AM I? My age has restricted my memory...

Upon waking up in the hospital, Harris can’t seem to explain to the doctor just who he is or what he’s doing there. With a bit of probing, it all starts to come back to him. He is Dr. Martin Harris and he must get back to the hotel for the conference he’s been unconscious three days for. So he books it to the hotel with a stern message from the doctor and finds his wife. But his wife doesn’t recognize him. And there’s a man there, claiming to be Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn).

In his polite and assuredly forceful rage, Liam Neeson begins a Alzheimer’s induced rampage all over Berlin. He runs into the fraud of himself multiple times and argues semantics with his past that this man can spew back at the same exact time. This is where it gets weird. You think there’s a sci-fi/fantasy twist, but hold your breath, it’s something not as strange. But it does seem like The 6th Day right? Someone in my house eating my birthday cake with my child, right? It’s uncanny. And yet, it almost seems to actually be the delusion of some old man running into another old man and rambling like old men.

A love made in... Berlin?

The movie has some good action scenes, but with the unfortunate comparison to Taken, it’s just not as good. Liam Neeson elegantly and kindly stumbles around Berlin attempting to find out just why he’s so crazy. His logical mind kicks into full gear and recruits an ex-Nazi intelligence man, Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz). This guy seems like a hardass and, with the way Liam Neeson’s career is going into action films, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ernst karate chopped a few necks of his own. Harris (Neeson, they’re interchangeable) recruits the help of a renegade Turkish woman who was driving his taxi Gina (Diane Kruger) and strangely falls in love with her. It’s all just bizarre.

Get out of here J.J., you're terrible.

This movie, like Taken, takes cues from the Bourne series amongst other things. Car chases and explosions, intense fight scenes with a lady present, it’s got it all. What is doesn’t have is an element of romantic chemistry I felt it was going for. Liam Neeson is attempting to fight for and win back a wife who is 26 years younger than him. Sure, love comes in all shapes and sizes, but you feel absolutely none of that chemistry on screen. He remembers sleeping with her. A bit creepy. Imagining Qui Gon Jinn hooking up with Padme Amidala is a bit more realistic. When this movie started, I thought it was Taken 2, and Neeson was accompanying his daughter January Jones (funny, she’s born Jan. 5th…) to Berlin for a proper European vacation. I was sorely mistaken. And disappointed.

It’s unfortunate I have to compare this to Taken. Based on the novel Out of My Head by Dider Van Cauwelaert, I found the premise and plot to be quite well paced and interesting. The casting is just too piss poor. With this new stigma of placing Liam Neeson in the wrong roles, there is a translation error. An unfortunate one that must be corrected. We should’ve stopped at Taken. A paltry 5.1 out of 10.

Oh, and January Jones is a terrible actress. Frank Langella was good though for his small part.

Time to get you chop on. Maybe in The Grey...