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February 16, 1990 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Willem Dafoe, who plays the Jewish Greek Salamo Arouch in the film Triumph Of The Spirit, hugs the real Arouch, who bo)-Ce-at 'b survive in Nazi
concentration camps. On the right is the film's producer, Arnold Koppelson.

death camps must be found
in the hour-by-hour, day-by-
day life (as a matter of fact,
the initial working title of the
film was Day by Day).
Triumph, whose brief Greek
scenes were filmed in Haifa
and Jaffa, rings least true in
its fictitious romance be-
tween Arouch and his home-
town fiancee, Allegra. The
ploy is rationalized on the
grounds that it permits us a
look at life in the women's
camp, but it makes for a con-
trived reunion at Auschwitz
and a melodramatic fadeout.
In 1980, Arama moved to
Los Angeles, still carrying
with him the boxer's story,
and three years later got his
first break when Arnold
Kopelson (who produced the
1987 Oscar winner Platoon)
got caught up in the story.
Still, it took another six years
of steady rejection by studios
and all of Kopelson's own
money, to actually complete
Triumph.

Mystically Drawn

Paul Mazursky is one of the
most highly considered film-
makers in Hollywood. As a
producer, director, writer and
actor Mazursky's critical and

commercial successes range
from the prototypical yuppie
picture, Bob & Carol & Ted &
Alice in 1969, through An
Unmarried Woman, Moscow
on the Hudson, Down and
Out in Beverly Hills and last
year's Scenes from a Class
Struggle in Beverly Hills.
Even with one of the most
"bankable" names in the in-
dustry, Mazursky had to wait
17 years to bring Enemies, A
Love Story, based on Isaac
Bashevis Singer's novel of the
same title, to the screen.
"I was mystically drawn to
the novel the first time I read
it in 1972," Mazursky recalls.
"I immediately tried to op-
tion it, but the rights were
tied up elsewhere, and it was
not until 1986 that I was able
to obtain them."
In the foreword to his novel,
Singer wrote: "This book pre-
sents an exceptional case
with unique heroes and a
unique combination of events.
The characters are not only
Nazi victims, but victims of
their own personalities and
fates?'
For once, the word "unique"
is appropriate. Consider:
Herman Broder (Ron Silver)
survived the Holocaust in a

hayloft, where he was hidden
for three years by Yadwiga, a
Polish peasant woman, who
was formerly a servant in his
parents' home. Out of grati-
tude, Herman married Yad-
wiga (Polish actress Margaret
Sophie Stein) and they live
now — the time is 1949 — in
a walkup on Coney Island.
'Telling his naive, adoring
wife that he is a bookseller
who frequently has to travel
out of town, Herman carries
on an affair with Masha
(Swedish actress Lena Olin,
she of the jaunty bowler hat
in The Unbearable Lightness
of Being), a tempestuous sur-
vivor of both Nazi and Soviet
camps, who lives in the
Bronx. Giving in to Masha's
ultimatum, Herman marries
her in a Jewish ceremony,
without, of course, telling
Yadwiga.
Not enough, suddenly Her-
man's first wife, Tamara (An-
jelica Houston), whom he had
married in pre-war Poland
and who supposedly was shot
by the Germans, shows up in
her uncle's apartment on the
Lower East Side.
Here we have all the ingre-
dients of a classical farce; of
the nimble lover trying to

keep three wives happy while
hoping that none will find out
about the others. Enemies,
however, was not written by
farceur Feydeau but by Sing-
er, and in Mazursky he finds
a kindred spirit in chronicling
the perplexities and ironies of
human relationships.
Herman, far from being a
carefree libertine and rake is
an intelligent, often desper-
ate man, haunted by his past,
who, like Tamara and Masha,
often despairs that his living
husk sheathes a dead soul. He
is also a weak man, who must
cling to each of his three
women for different physical
and emotional needs, and
who lacks the intestinal forti-
tude to resolve his predica-
ment. His irresolution is
summed up in a fleeting mo-
ment in a New York subway
station, when, torn among his
three women, he can't decide
whether to take the train to
Coney Island, the Bronx, or
to mid-town.
The movie softens, but does
not repress, the dark, self-
lacerating undercurrent in
Singer's book, which hardly
ever surfaces in Hollywoodian
treatments of the Holocaust.
Perhaps only a man of Singer's

"The victims are
not only Nazi
victims, they are
victims of their
own personalities
and fates."

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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