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American Swing music in Nazi germany
This strange movie with a niche subject--jazz-loving, dance-loving German kids persecuted by Hitler's men--almost works, thanks to a good cast who seem devoted to the unusual story line. Director Thomas Carter doesn't bring the necessary stylistic oomph to the musical sequences, something that might have pushed the whole production to another, more interesting level of Hollywood dream. Kenneth Branagh makes a particularly effective, wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Nazi official. --Tom Keogh
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Almost universally canned by critics, this film touches on a difficult subject - the dilemma of living in peacetime Nazi Germany. Its main characters are teenagers, who view the Nazis as cliche-spouting ingrates, but are swamped at every turn with the propaganda and seeming omnipotence of the evil regime.
This is where professional film critics seem to have an issue. How dare, they seem to ask, a film present ordinary life in Nazi Germany as bearable? How dare the young characters seem more interested in romance, education and "making the best of things" than - presumably - plotting Hitler's downfall? Surely they should all rise up in mutinous glory against Hitler in reel 2, or something like that.
What makes this flawed (and at times poorly edited) film unique is it refuses to wander into such obvious territory. It assumes we are intelligent enough to know the Nazis were evil and, beyond the setting of the film (1938/9) would go on to engineer the Holocaust. It doesn't need to remind us of that.
What it does remind us of is how difficult it is to live in a country slowly descending into an hysteria of racist/religious paranoia. And what it's like to be a young adult at the time.
Unique, occasionally corny, occasionally brilliant. Brave and great. The most underrated and misjudged film of all time by a long way, by those who judge any film which does not yell "NAZI = EVIL" at 100 decibels for 100 minuts as somehow favouring them.
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