Tears of a Clown

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:14

      When will the steady stream of movies about the Holocaust end? In a year that has already seen the release of The Boy in Striped Pajamas (Nazis for the kiddies) and I Served the King of England (Nazis in Czechoslovakia) comes Adam Resurrected, with Good (Everyman Nazis) and The Reader (sexy female Nazis) hitting theaters later this month.

    At least Adam Resurrected (based on a novel by Yoram Kaniuk) is more concerned with the survivors of concentration camps than the camps themselves, even if the film feels like a strange amalgamation of Sophie’s Choice and The Night Porter, with outof-place comic set pieces. But Adam (Jeff Goldblum) is no Sophie, living an ordinary life that never quite camouflages his survivor’s guilt. Adam lives at the Seizling Institute, an experimental mental institution in the Israeli desert for concentration camp survivors, where he charms his fellow inmates and the doctors with a steady stream of wisecracks, magic tricks and the ability to give himself any psychosomatic disease he likes. Until, that is, the arrival of a young boy convinced that he’s a dog. And guess what? Adam has experience on that front! That’s when we’re treated to the black-and-white flashbacks of Adam living life as the performing dog of Nazi Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe).

    Their love-hate relationship is never fully explained, nor is Adam’s affair with nurse Gina, whom he makes roll around on the floor and bark for him.The whole thing begins to feel like high-class piffle, an unsophisticated take on the far superior sadomasochistic relationship in Liliani Cavani’s The Night Porter.Then again, the casting of Jeff Goldblum as a charismatic magic man who can give himself psychosomatic diseases should be a clue to the film’s tone.

    Once upon a time, Goldblum was a talented, versatile actor; but over the years he’s gradually morphed into one of the more mannered supporting performers in American film. His stylized line readings, with sudden gasps for air in the middle of his dialogue, is as easily recognizable (and mockable) as Christpher Walken’s more imitated speech patterns.Watching an entire film revolving around Goldblum becomes an exercise in frustration. He cries, he plays the violin, he tries to kill himself in full clown makeup, but never once does he transcend the cipher that is Adam to become a recognizable man, albeit one whose redemption hangs on a boy who acts like a dog. Slobbering and barking and biting, the creature (played by a game Tudor Rapiteanu) may prompt a fit of giggles, but it’s unclear if director Schrader intends you to laugh or if it’s just poorly handled.

    Then again, this is a Holocaust-survivor movie that has Goldblum drop his trousers and bare his ass for the camera in the first 15 minutes. At that point, the line between intentional and accidental humor has already been blurred beyond all recognition. -- Adam Resurrected Directed by Paul Schrader At the Quad, Running Time: 107 min --