Nazi-hunt­ing rock star style

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts & Entertainment -

ONE OF the creepi e r c i n e m a t i c de­vel­op­ments of re­cent years is the at­tempts by Euro­pean film­mak­ers to mine the Holo­caust for com­edy. The first and most suc­cess­ful of these of was Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beau­ti­ful, which was fol­lowed by Peter Kosso­vitz’s ex­e­crable Jakob the Liar. Now an­other Ital­ian di­rec­tor, Paolo Sor­rentino (who made the fine Il Divo), has drawn on the Holo­caust in a sim­i­larly triv­i­al­is­ing and ado­les­cent way.

Per­haps the trend can be ex­plained by the fact that some artists of this gen­er­a­tion (Sor­rentino is 41) may re­gard the Holo­caust as now suf­fi­ciently dis­tant in time to al­low it to be ap­pro­pri­ated and ex­ploited with­out con­sid­er­ing its moral con­tent.

To be fair, Sor­rentino’s English-lan­guage de­but is not purely a Holo­caust com­edy; it is pri­mar­ily a 1990s in­die road movie with a Holo­caust el­e­ment grafted on, and fea­tur­ing an ego­tis­ti­cal per­for­mance by a ma­jor Amer­i­can star in the form of Sean Penn, wear­ing a bad wig.

It is also a film that boasts mo­ments of gen­uine wit, charm and even wis­dom, though its 113 min­utes feel twice as long, and the whole movie ul­ti­mately comes across as an ex­er­cise in self­con­scious quirk­i­ness.

Penn plays Cheyenne, a re­tired Amer­i­can rock star liv­ing in Ire­land with his fire­fighter wife (Frances Mcdor­mand). He spends his time mop­ing and play­ing the stock mar­ket. For his ap­pear­ance and over­all shtick the film­mak­ers seem to have drawn on rock­ers like Alice Cooper, Ozzy Os­bourne, the var­i­ous heav­ily made-up mem­bers of Kiss, and Robert Smith, the Goth lead singer of The Cure.

Though in his 50s, Cheyenne wears lip­stick and eye­liner which make him look like a rad­dled drag queen and, un­like those real-life stars, he is a sad sack with a strange, ef­fem­i­nate voice.

Heis­boredand­de­pressed(here­tired af­ter his songs prompted young fans to com­mit sui­cide) un­til he hears that his long-es­tranged fa­ther is dy­ing in New York and he crosses the At­lantic to be by his side be­fore he dies.

He ar­rives too late but dis­cov­ers that his fa­ther, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, had spent years track­ing down a con­cen­tra­tion camp guard who is alive and hid­ing some­where in the south-west of the United States.

Cheyenne meets a Si­mon Wiesen­thal-like char­ac­ter, played by Judd Hirsch as a pompous ass lu­di­crously ob­sessed with the where­abouts of the gold teeth the Nazis stole from their vic­tims. Then he goes search­ing for the miss­ing guard.

Along the way to find­ing his fa­ther’s tor­men­tor, Cheyenne dis­penses home­spun, Rain Man- like wis­dom in his sim­per­ing, gig­gling voice and be­gins to emerge from the ado­les­cence in which he has been trapped.

I t is a j our­ney that ends with re­venge and re­demp­tion, nei­ther of which feel real or heart­felt.

Sean Penn dons a bad wig and eye-liner to play a de­pressed rocker

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