https:// themaxeychronicles.blogspot. com/2019/08

Elia Kazan's GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT, Steven Spielberg's SCHINDLER'S LIST and Henry Jaglom's TRAIN to ZAKOPANE’ are three films about anti-Semitism.  Two are renowned  and  august, but  suspect; one, TRAIN TO ZAKOPANE' is recent and it is truly an important and remarkable work, unquestionably one of the very best and most important films in years.

We are great admirers of most of Elia Kazan’s work but believes that his so heralded GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT is well off the mark; it trivializes anti-Semitism.   The  film  was  released  in 1947, two years after  the conclusion of World War II  in which six million Jews  were  slaughtered  by the Nazis using various means. The plot of the film: A journalist played by Gregory Peck, pretends to be Jewish in  order to uncover anti-Semitism in Post-War America.  The  climax of the film is when Mr. Peck is outraged because he is turned away from a hotel where he cannot get a room because they believe he is Jewish  and  his son is bullied  in school  for much the same reason.  This Blogger is sure that the Jews slaughtered just  four  years  before  in  the Warsaw  Ghetto Uprising would have gladly accepted Mr. Peck’s heartbreak, if  given a chance. The moral of  GENTLEMAN'S  AGREEMENT is blatant; all acts of  racial  or  religious  discrimination,  regardless  of how  small they are, are  morally  repugnant.  That is an honorable position, but a snub  is  just  simply not the same as a Holocaust. GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT, however, glorifies the snub in lieu of condemning the much larger crime - the Holocaust itself.

SCHINDLER’S LIST’s moral is even simpler and, unfortunately, really much more childishishly nonsensical; Nazis are  bad and  some Nazis are crazy.  That is how "deep" it gets. However it is Henry Jaglom's new film TRAIN TO ZAKOPANE' which - for the first time on film - fulfills the moral  imperative of  relating what  it  actually must be like to be a Jew in an anti-Semitic country  during an  anti-Semitic time.  And what is it like to be that person, even in the most seemingly unthreatening of circumstances before the horror breaks loose?

As  Mr. Jaglom reveals in his  film, it is like living your whole life on the side of a volcano, living 
always on the side of  Mount Vesuvius, never knowing when it will explode - or to what degree.  
For a Jew then living on the side of that volcano,  life was this - it  didn't not matter whether one was a good person,  an honorable person,  a smart person,  a decent person, a brilliant person, 
a generous  person, a creative person, a kind person, or a terrific family man. When the volcano  explodes you will  be  killed and  your family  will  be killed, regardless of any of your endearing traits, talents or attributes.

Being a Jew in an anti-Semitic  world  meant  there was no protection against the wicked randomness  of  that volcano. The  only question for any  Jew in an anti-Semitic world was  this - when will the volcano explode, killing me and all  my family?  There is no  film in  this blogger's living  memory which better explains thatexistential, every day horror of being a Jew in an anti-Semitic  world as does this latest film by Henry Jaglom, his  crowning achievement.

The film is based on a true incident in the life of Mr. Jaglom's father, Simon Jaglom, which happened to the Jaglom pere on  a train trip crossing Poland in the late 1920s.  He  was  a  very  elegant and deeply  sophisticated Jew from Czarist Russia, but not a "noticeable" Jew, not a FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Jew, a thoroughly integrated Russian Jew who found himself, by fate, 
in a small train  compartment with - among others - an attractive  young Polish woman, a lovely nurse in fact in the very recently formed Polish army, who was also extremely  inviting and desirable BUT clearly an anti-Semite of the highest  and  most  hateful order.  Simon Jaglom decided - while listening to  her  proclaim that  she "could  smell  a  Jew  a kilometer away" - that he would seduce her for the pure  pleasure of  revenge, and only  THEN, after sleeping with her,  tell  her  that  he  was, in  fact, Jewish - a very  early form of what we sometimes now call "revenge porn."  That, at least, was his initial plan. 

Henry Jaglom's father and the anti-Semitic Polish army nurse flirt and kiss and perhaps more, 
and then get off the train together at  an elegant ski resort high in the Polish mountains that - 

as we later learn - has another, even deeper  meaning  for  him.  In the aftermath of that seduction he learns that  his  family may, in fact, have  had  disturbing  dealings with this nurse  before,  with tragic consequences.  We  also learn, from this deeply moving true story,  that  fate - and  its lover, irony - does indeed work overtime.

The main character, Mr. Jaglom’s father, is  played as a young man with a Robert Donat-like grace, by Mike Falkow. The nurse is played - most movingly,  winningly, persuasively and fervently - by the sensationally powerful actress Tanna Frederick, Henry Jaglom's wife. The writer/director uses actual footage of his father, Simon M. Jaglom, as a witness in the film at 94 years of age as he now narrates his own story, a la REDS.  And his appearance adds much great heft  to  the film, for he was eyewitness to all of the strange  mechanics  of  romance  and  fate that makes up  this gem, TRAIN TO ZAKOPANE'. The movie is a very intimate  film, but in its  intimacy, there  is  a truly important commentary on the grandeur of the human  endeavor; though in form the film is  a seemingly modest work,  its significant and profound  reflections on Life are as truly humbling as they are amazing.  ABOVE ALL, IT IS ONE OF THE VERY BEST. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND ONE OF THE MOST MOVING FILMS  THAT YOU WILL HAVE  SEEN  IN A  LONG  TIME!                                                             

======================= Gerry Maxey. The Maxey Chronicles

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