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Special Screenings

'Jacob The Liar': Hope's Double-edged Sword

June 23, 1986|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

In a Jewish ghetto in 1943 Germany, a middle-aged man named Jacob (the wonderfully expressive Vlastimil Brodsky) escapes death for violating curfew and while in custody overhears a radio report of a Russian advance. Thus begins the stark but oddly whimsical East German film "Jacob the Liar," a 1976 Academy Award nominee for best foreign film which screens tonight at 8 in the Gallery Theater, Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., as part of a series of Holocaust films organized by the Goethe Institute.

Alas, Jacob's news spreads like wildfire, and this film, which was directed with much passion by Frank Beyer from Holocaust survivor Jurek Becker's script, goes on to reveal what a double-edged sword hope can be when it is after all false and when the threat of deportation to concentration camps is constant.

Screening Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at the Martyrs Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., is another film in this series, Swiss writer-director Markus Imhoof's "The Boat Is Full," a 1981 Oscar nominee for best foreign film. In his overpowering, unrelenting film, Imhoof demolishes the widespread assumption that if refugees from Hitler's Germany were lucky enough to reach the border of neutral Switzerland they were home safe.

What actually happened was that by the summer of 1942 the Swiss government declared "the boat is full," having accepted 8,300 refugees, most of whom were only passing through to other countries. No longer could a Jew request sanctuary as a political refugee. With an almost unbearable suspense--and the utmost simplicity--Imhoof tells of six bedraggled refugees who are reluctantly given shelter by a Swiss couple who run a small inn in a picturesque town whose air is thick with anti-Semitism. For more information: (213) 854-0993.

With "F Is for Fake" (1973), which screens Thursday at 8 p.m. at the County Museum of Art's Bing Theater as part of an Orson Welles retrospective, Welles stretches his material and his legend just about as thin as possible in this tedious treatise on truth and illusion.

Apparently at some point Welles took over a film that noted French documentarian Francois Reichenbach was making on the late art forger Elymr de Hory at his home on Ibiza and which featured De Hory's biographer Clifford Irving, subsequently to become even more notorious than De Hory for his fake Howard Hughes biography.

In essence, Welles, who's on camera as much as anyone else, has deployed his fabulous technique on a mishmash of material, some of it little more than travelogue footage that is not strong enough to sustain it.

As Welles contemplates the Chartres Cathedral and observes that it scarcely matters who its architect was, he's suggesting that--by dubious extension--it makes no difference that De Hory may be a forger as long as he's good. How ironic that the most auteurist of directors should make such a remark--but then it was Ingmar Bergman who once said that he would like to be considered as one of the anonymous artisans who worked on Chartres! Bergman, or Welles, anonymous?

The highly baroque "Touch of Evil" (1958), which screens at at the museum on Saturday at 8 p.m., is an entertaining thriller which provided Welles with a characteristic portrait of a man destroyed by his belief that he is above the law. Incredibly convoluted and thickly populated with the most bizarre types, the film is basically escapist fare which Welles attempts to transform into a modern morality play.

The upholder of this philosophy happens to be a corrupt cop--Welles himself, padded to an immense grossness. Mexican narcotics official (Charlton Heston, of all people) and his American bride (Janet Leigh) are honeymooning when they're caught up in a border incident at the Tijuana-like town of Los Robles where Welles is police chief. "Touch of Evil" was filmed in Venice, which provided an appropriately sleazy background for moral decay, and throughout the film famous faces--Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor, etc.--turn up for showy bits. Not just a little campy. For full schedule information: (213) 857-6177.

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