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ADAM RESURRECTED

No, this really isnít a horror movie, but itís so freaky and bizarre I feel it deserves a review herein. Itís a holocaust drama like no other, in which (in the words of one of its own creators) a man who was once a dog confronts a dog who was once a boy. Yes, itís that kind of movie!

The Package
     The novel ADAM RESURRECTED by Yoran Kaniuk, initially published in Israel in 1968 (its actual title literally translates to MAN, SON OF A DOG), was poorly received and widely misunderstood, but (surprise!) has since been reappraised as a contemporary masterpiece.
     It seems this 2008 film adaptation, starring Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and Israeli superstar Ayelet Zurer, is set to undergo a fate similar to that of the book, as thus far itís been largely maligned, if not ignored outright. ADAM RESURRECTED received scant attention on the festival circuit and even less during its blink-and-youíll-miss-it December Ď08 theatrical bow. The DVD didnít even turn up until nearly a full year later; now that itís finally here, letís hope more people see the film, as itís one of the finest by director Paul Schrader.
     Schrader is best known for his longtime association with Martin Scorsese, for whom Schrader scripted TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. Heís also directed many terrific films (BLUE COLLAR, MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS, AUTO-FOCUS), along with just as many not-so-terrific ones (AMERICAN GIGOLO, FOREVER MINE, the EXORCIST prequel DOMINION) and some that are just misunderstood (CAT PEOPLE, PATTY HEARST). All are characterized by a nervy audacity and at times disturbing peek into dark and troubling depths--just like ADAM RESURRECTED.

The Story
     1961: Adam, a wealthy Jew with a decidedly horrific past, has himself shipped off to an Israeli asylum for Holocaust survivors, a creepy environ with stark grey walls. Once interned, Adam causes a ruckus by refusing treatment, making himself bleed (one of his many ďtalentsĒ) and seducing the attractive head nurse. But one day he sniffs out a ďdogĒ--actually David, a young boy who resides in a secluded wing of the asylum.
     David thinks heís a dog, which forces Adam to confront his own past, when he was forced to live as a canine. During the Holocaust Adam was spared the gas chambers by a Nazi commandant, who remembered Adam from his days as a nightclub entertainer and made him his pet. Flashbacks fill us in on how Adam, on those occasions when he wasnít being a dog for the commandant, was used to entertain Jews as they were led to their deaths in a concentration camp--including his own wife and children!
     Back in the asylum Adam makes it his mission to cure David the dog-boy of his delusions. This causes the head nurse (who extends the dog motif by behaving like a canine herself during sex with Adam) to grow jealous. Adam, however, wonít be deterred in his quest, which comes to encompass his own fractured psyche as well as that of David.

The Direction
     From this filmís very first moments itís clear that Paul Schrader was aiming to create something far removed from the standard Holocaust movie. ADAM RESURRECTED has a tone and rhythm closer to surreal comedy than the drudgery of SCHINDLERíS LIST or THE PIANIST. I guess to many viewers such an unorthodox treatment of the Holocaust will seem downright sacrilegious, but I say it works, especially in contrast with the filmís darker, more esoteric elements.
     Iím referring to the sequences where Adam and his young charge act like dogs, which are appropriately creepy and disturbing. Thereís no way to tone down or sugar-coat such scenes, and Schrader deserves credit for the fearlessness with which he presents them. So does his lead actor Jeff Goldblum, whoís never been better onscreen.
     In addition to the above, there are stretches of straightforward (if eccentric) drama and moments of pure fantasy, such as Adamís final hallucinatory meeting with his Nazi captor (Willem Dafoe, essaying the filmís most thankless role). The net result is a fascinating and troubling oddity whose misguided DVD packaging doesnít come close to conveying its richness and eccentricity. If nothing else, ADAM RESURRECTED is likely the next best thing to THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED.
 

Vital Statistics

ADAM RESURRECTED
Bleiberg Entertainment/3L Filmproduktion

Director: Paul Schrader
Producers: Ehud Bleiberg, Werner Wirsing
Screenplay: Noah Stollman
(Based on a Novel by Yoram Kaniuk)
Cinematography: Sebastian Edschmid
Editing: Sandy Saffeels
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Aylet Zurer, Moritz Bleibtreu, Hana Laszlo, Joachim Krol, Jenya Dodina, Tudor Rapiteanu, Veronica Ferres, Idan Alterman
 

     

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