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. "Go For Zucker" (aka, Alles auf Zucker!)

"Go For Zucker" is a film from Germany that won that country's most prestigious award and it may represent a turning point. Is it the start of dealing with the German-Jewish community as a film subject without the restraining baggage of wartime guilt, as some believe?

"Alles auf Zucker!," as it's known there, is a farcical satire about a Jewish family coming together after years of separation on different sides of the Berlin Wall. The clashes between belief systems turns basic greed into bonding and forgiveness. The humor is a bit exaggerated --okay, it's so exaggerated it'll test your patience-- but the cultural themes and practices will hit home to the Jewish demographic with considerable familiarity. Trouble is, familiarity doesn't necessarily translate into great cinema.

Jackie Zucker (Henry Hubchen) is a pool shark living in dependent circumstances in what was East Germany. He owes money to everyone and his wife, disgusted by his pattern of false promises, throws him out of the house. His life is headed for the streets.

But when his mother dies, and a will emerges, that slippery slope comes to a screeching halt. In fact, things suddenly look way up for Jackie, with his wife taking a whole new interest in his losing ways. Smelling a possible fortune coming his way, she turns into his manager, sitting at his side as they listen to mom's Rabbi-in-charge reciting the requirements of the will.

First, they have to become orthodox and carry out all the laws and practices of a strict Jewish home. She's more into it than he is, but they set about to kosher things up, with a vengeance. That's not all. The next demand is that Jackie must reconcile with his estranged brother Samuel (Udo Samel), who left the East with mom before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. Jackie, perfectly comfortable with the communist regime, stayed behind, incurring his brother's wrath and lack of forgiveness.

Jackie, a bit of a free-wheeling loose-nut, refers to his stoic brother as "Uncle Ayatollah." Their differences begin with religious commitments but he's astounded when when Samuel arrives with his entire "mishpoocha" (brood) along for the required 7 days of "sitting Shiva" together--yet another condition of the will. West must come East because mom wants to be buried at her place of birth.

The exact monetary benefit of the inheritance being dangled before them like a flashy lure is purposely withheld so that the characters are free to imagine a grand payoff for their pains.

The completely predictable nature of director/co-writer Dani Levy's comedy based on mercenary motivations is worsened by frantically performed stereotypes, forced gags and obvious symbolic references, as in Germany's own need for reconciliation.

Which may explain why this first Jewish-themed film comedy since the war, the first with such a light-hearted take on the minority community, has been a huge success at the German Film Awards and is considered there as a turning point in cinema dealing with sensitive wartime guilt. It may just be coming off as a welcome sigh of relief. Which would be a reaction that reflects tastes and responses at home. As for the attributes of the film itself to an international audience, it's an indulgence of cultural irony that's too weighted with overdressing and fat to travel all that well. Still, it's a landmark, and well worth seeing as a political and historical specimen.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  




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Henry Hubchen as Jackie Zucker
In carefree days, a pool hustler
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