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Notes from New York (6)

I saw two movies today. The Grey Zone is one of the most powerful holocaust movies ever, and one of the best pictures of the year. It is written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, who played one of the brothers in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and also directed O. The film examines the Sonderkommando, the group of Jews in concentration camps that ushered other Jews to the gas chambers, and then burned their bodies. The Sonderkommando were granted privileges such as food, wine, liquor, cigarettes in exchange for unspeakable acts, and were spared their own deaths, but for a period of four months only. On Oct 7, 1944, a group of them staged an historic revolt at Auschwitz.

The film features a number of memorable performances by Mira Sorvino, Daniel Benzali, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Allan Corduner as the Jewish surgeon who reported to Josef Mengele, David Chandler as one of the kommandos, and surprisingly, David Arquette, whose performance as a Hungarian Jew will make you forget his previous personas (of mostly assholes). The most horrifying aspect of the movie is its bleak and basic portrayal of the kommandos actions, which for them was business as usual. the movie is mind-numbing. I left wondering, again, how anyone could ever do this to another human being, and how the Sonderkommandos’ own psyches could survive until their own deaths.

I also saw Femme Fatale, the new film written and directed by Brian de Palma. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays a jewel thief who double-crosses her partners in a jewel heist of a diamond-studded – er – outfit. She escapes, and seven years later, returns to France as the wife of the US Ambassador. Along the way…well, it gets kinky, and messy, and confusing, and ultimately unsatisfying. Romijn-Stamos won me over as a Bad Girl, but it wasn’t enough for me to recommend the movie. Wait for the video/dvd/whatever.

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