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The Clown and the Fuhrer

Directed by Eduard Cortés

The Clown and the Fuhrer

Director:Eduard Cortés
Cast:Jordi Martínez, Pere Arquillue, Manel Barceló
Release Date:2009
Genre:Drama, Historical

Screens as part of the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 4/8/2009

What if Hitler loved Charlie Rivel so much he commanded the most famous clown of his day to perform for his birthday in 1944? And what if an obsessively unfunny Gestapo agent named Krauss wanted to horn in on the act? The Clown and the Fuhrer tells this story, pretty much exactly as it would have happened, complete with a secretly Jewish, mouthy sidekick Witzi (Jordi Martínez), an unjustly imprisoned, conspiratorial substitute sidekick Golo (Pere Arquillue), and the inevitable wacky assassination attempt scene.

Ferran Rañé portrays Rivel as a red-smocked naïf, just trying to make people laugh while trying to keep a lid on the violence. So all the elements are in place, and yet the movie is, somehow, just not funny. Why isn't it funny? Because it's set in Nazi-fuckin'-Germany, that's why. Nothing about WWII was funny. Not the death camps, not the shitting in a bucket on the way to the death camps, not the futile attempts to escape to Sweden, not the torture, not the air raids, and certainly not the Gestapo or its instant representative (Manel Barceló), who was psychically wounded as a boy by his father's suicide (you get both to hear him describe it and then see a flashback of the bloody scene--the young future Gestapo officer wishing to cheer dear old dad with a clown routine, only to be thwarted by the final gunshot).

In real life, Charlie Rivel was the most famous clown in Spain, and he got famous by making a crying boy laugh by crying. Based on Gerard Vasquez's play Uuuuh!, which is supposedly based upon a "true encounter" between Hitler and Rivel, The Clown and the Fuhrer is as true to life as a subjunctive history can be.

E-mail Edward Ericson Jr.

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