*Jojo Rabbit*

I almost didn’t see this one, first because I didn’t like the preview (at all), second because in this post-Hogan’s Heroes era I am not sure another Nazi comedy (is that what it is?) is exactly what we need.  And yet…this is an excellent film and it expresses the power of cinema in a way one is no longer used to seeing from a Hollywood movie.  For the first half hour I wasn’t sure I liked it, though it improves steadily.  Mel Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, and Ernst Lubitsch references abound, and the soundtrack starts with the Beatles singing in German (“Komm’ Gib Mir Deine Hand”).  Excellent cast and visuals too, so who cares if it ends up being known as “the Nazi rabbit movie”?

How did this one ever get made?  Always go see movies by directors you like, in this case Taika Waititi, who also did the super-subtle Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Comments

The reviews have been somewhat mixed and my personal reaction to the previews was somewhat mixed. But within that mixture is indeed a strong notion that I should see it, mainly due to Waititi's involvement. Also because I liked _Leave No Trace_ and I think the young actress who was so impressive in that movie is also in _JoJo Rabbit_,Thomasin somebody.

IIRC correctly her character in _Leave No Trace_ was also called Thomasin, whereas in the novel that it was based on, the character was called Carolyn or something like that. I went to a talk where the author of the novel talked about his experiences having it made into a movie; he had given up most creative rights but the filmmakers did talk and consult with him frequently. He had a hard time letting go; his novel has the same basic set-up and characters as the movie. But it has very different aims and plot twists compared to the movie and it took him awhile to adjust to that and realize that it wasn't really his novel that was being filmed, despite him being paid for the rights to film it. He was especially loathe to have the name of his main character changed. And the title is different too, his novel is titled _My Abandonment_.

I haven't seen _JoJo Rabbit_ yet though.

I'm so glad to hear this. I love me some Taika Waititi. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is amazing.

I knew you would enjoy it Tyler. I’m glad you gave it a chance. The opening with the Beatles in German was wonderful.

It was such an odd movie. Farcical for the first 2/3- I couldn't figure out if I should take it seriously or not- but then the ending was as sad and moving as anything I've seen in the theater in a long time. A woman sitting in front of us actually walked out early crying. You rarely see that happen anymore. Movies today feel so devoid of emotion- they're more interested in clever plot twists or political statements and in general just feel so cynical- that to find one that is honest and opens its heart to you like this one did was quite a shock. As TC said, it's a surprise this movie even exists. I'm glad it does and that I got to see it.

Post-Hogan's Heroes? What on earth does that mean? We have been in a post-Hogan's Heroes era for 50 years. The interval between World War II and Hogan's Heroes is much shorter than the interval between Hogan's Heroes and today. It's like saying we're in a post-Loving Spoonful era or something.

"interval between World War II and Hogan's Heroes is much shorter than the interval between Hogan's Heroes and today"

More than twice as long. 20 years from WW2, 48 years from last episode.

It sounds like the "Green Book" of 2019: nobody like the trailers, but audiences that did show up liked it. "Green Book" went on to win Best Picture.

I hadn't even heard of Green Book.

Best Picture. You don't say. It's got only 78% on RT, not what I'd expect for Best Picture.

The comparison to Lubitsch is dead on, esp To Be or Not To Be. Its directed like a movie from the 1940s too----very little camera movement, static shot seamlessly edited, classically framed and blocked, that don't call attention to itself. The only thing that's contemporary about it is the soundtrack.

Okay, the film is a warning about today's woke master race. Or not. I've never quite understood the satires about Germany. It's true that the German establishment thought Hitler was a buffoon and laughed at the clownish figure with his bad haircut and screaming nonsense. But it wasn't funny. Every living American and European has been touched by the German descent into barbarism. I lost my only uncle as the allies marched across France toward Berlin. Today, most of America laughs at the buffoon Trump, with his bad haircut and screaming nonsense. But Trump has his Goebbels too, the true believers who aren't in on the joke. German satires are meant to humanize the Germans, to comfort both Germans and the rest of us that not all Germans are barbarians, that Germans aren't from the forbidden planet, who at any moment will descend into barbarism. Trump satires serve the same purpose: Trump and his band of true believers aren't a threat and will soon pass into history just like the Germans.

Seen on TV on 2019 Veterans Day. There are fewer than 400,000 WWII veterans still with us.

Some years ago, in going through a box I had found a sweet picture of my little son with his friends, so I emailed him a photo of the photo, in which they were standing on the school stage in their Cub Scout uniforms.

"Tell me again why you enrolled me in the Hitlerjugend?" he replied in his customary acerbic way.

This made me smile ... but even as I did, I knew I was giving aid and comfort to evil, that his small witticism was a way to humanize the first-graders with their bad bowl cuts and their screaming nonsense about "staying off the hot lava" on the playground, to reassure both first-graders and the rest of us that not all first-graders are barbarians, that first-graders aren't from the forbidden planet, who at any moment will descend into barbarism.

Yes, everyone needs to read Art of the Deal, in which Trump lays out his plan for clearing the Slavs out to create lebensraum and destroying the Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Moscow.

Thank you! Trump doesn’t scream nonsense. His rhetoric is mild.

By the way, Art of the Deal is a very decent book, both as an insight into Trump’s relentless personality and as a meaty distillation of his business experience.

Trump, as is well know, did not actually write that book. It gives as much insight into Trump's personality as an outside hack writing for a paycheck can provide.

It is not clear to me from your comment whether or not you have seen Jojo Rabbit.

It looks like a Wes Anderson movie. Can anyone comment on that?

It isn't anything like a Wes Anderson movie. Much broader, extroverted and straightforward in its humour and far less stylized.

Hogan’s Heroes was great.

Most of the actors playing Germans were Jewish and Cpl. LeBeau had been in a concentration camp. It also had a black man in a strong role when this was not the norm.

Like other reviewers, Tyler appreciates JoJo Rabbit’s excellence; but, again like the others, he underrates the film. It is a straightforward, and rather profound meditation on fallibility and redemption.

Consider JoJo’s best friend, and fellow Hitler Youthian, Yorki. He pulsates with kindness and good will, and is comedic dynamite. In discussing the Reich’s dwindling list of allies, he notes that the Japanese are still in the fight “but between you and me, they don’t look very Aryan.” It falls flat on the page, but is hilarious onscreen. And yet this young man, not even a teenager, is first a member of a Nazi youth group, and then a soldier in the Wehrmacht. He carries rocket launchers and guns, and follows orders to attack the Allied forces liberating Germany from Hitler’s rule. I have no idea what Waititi’s thinking was regarding this character – nor, for that matter, do I care – but to me, he is a tragic figure. Among Germany’s millions of soldiers, and tens of millions of civilians who, directly or indirectly, supported its war effort, surely there were many people like Yorki. Kind, well intentioned souls who had the misfortune of living in a brutal, violent country. How many of them did unspeakable things? And how many were incinerated during the firebombing of Dresden, or cut down by the Red Army in its drive to Berlin? The film reminds us that before launching the Holocaust and invading Poland, the Third Reich established control over Germany’s national psyche.

And yet it also reminds us that the triumph was incomplete. JoJo’s mother, Rosie, is an exemplar of non-violent resistance in a society where violence has been town-square normalized. And even Captain Klenzendorf finds some humanity before the end. A Hitler Youth leader for most of the film, he joins the battle against the Allies during its climax. But, when the war is over, the captain saves JoJo from imprisonment at the cost of his own life. It is a poignant scene; a flower of dignity blossoming in a wasteland.

And finally, there is Elsa, a young Jewish woman who was welcomed by JoJo’s mother, and is hiding in her attic. However unrealistic it may be, Elsa’s capacity for joy despite tyranny is wonderful to watch.

If JoJo Rabbit was merely a skillful comedy punctuated with dramatic moments, then it would be entertaining, but forgettable. Fortunately, at a time when the legacy of World War Two feels increasingly relevant, it is much more than that. When I think of Yorki, I think of child soldiers in Africa; and the movie’s humor and hopefulness does not dilute its tragedy.

Yorki was my favorite character in the movie.

The 1960s Hogan's Heroes/The Producers approach of treating Nazis as comically inept losers was probably far more effective at inoculating young people against National Socialism than the recent sombre approach of treating Hitler as an almost satanic charismatic figure and Nazis as Lord of the Ring style super villains about whom jokes may not be bad. Why imbue Nazis with the power of what is practically a religious taboo? It just makes them more attractive to the disaffected.

Comments for this post are closed