Tuesday, September 13, 2011

365 Movies Day #168 "Mother Night"

Based on the story by Kurt Vonnegut, the man behind such classics as "Harrison Bergeron" and "Slaughterhouse-Five", this is one of Nick Nolte's finest. Nolte (who we addressed before for his lead role on "EXTREME PREJUDICE" is flawless in his portrayal of Howard Campbell Jr., a playwright living in Germany prior to WWII who is commissioned by spy, Major Frank Wirtanen (played by John Goodman...his first time to the blog), to infiltrate the Nazis and pass information to the US government. To do this, Campbell starts an incredibly racist hate-filled radio show listing the faults of the Jew and calling himself "The Last Free American". Meanwhile, he tries to hold on to his wife, played by the lovely Sheryl Lee ("Winter's Bone", "Twin Peaks"). After the war, Campbell is eventually caught by the Israeli's and is writing his memoirs for his trial. This sets the stage for the film.

The film is a wonderful love-story and a tale of what is really worth living for. What defines a hero? To what lengths would someone go for their beliefs? All great questions addressed in the film. As much as it is serious, even chilling at times, it definitely has it's comic elements. For instance the Fuhrer of Harlem, played by Frankie Faison ("Red Dragon", "The Thomas Crown Affair"). His white supremacist cohorts (yes...it's absurd) are also bumbling to the point of amusement and Alan Arkin ("SUNSHINE CLEANING", "THE ROCKETEER" also adds some witty and touching moments.

There are definitely some surreal twists and turns (to be expected from Vonnegut), but it never loses it's edge. It's such a passionate film and you can't help but feel so deeply for Campbell and his situation. It's such a fantastic story. The film also features Kirsten Dunst.


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