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Lena Katz, who is German, and David Fish, who is American, are Jews who live in New York. When Lena's mother, who arrives from Germany, meets her at a hotel, she finds an almost-dead woman lying on the hotel floor. She accompanies the injured woman to the hospital and meets David, who is the woman's son. After David's mother dies from the injuries, a question remains: was she murdered? The trail leads to Germany. Apparently, Lena's mother has some kind of relationship with David's mother that reaches back into the dark German history of the 1940s. Written by
Marco Radke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I saw a Taiwanese DVD import of "Meschugge" (which is Yiddish for crazy) under the alternate title "The Giraffe" (a title which makes no sense at all). The only potential handicap to it was the German-language sections had only Taiwanese subtitles, but I think I got the gist of those scenes, which are few.
This thriller is a tale of deception involving David Fish (played by writer/director Dani Levy), a busy young Jewish man whose mother escaped Germany but who always thought the rest of her family didn't survive the Holocaust. When she goes to meet someone from Germany who may know about her father, she winds up dead in a hospital having been found unconscious with a head wound in a hotel hallway by Lena Katz (played by co-writer Maria Schrader), a young German woman visiting New York to cover a fashion shoot.
David and Lena start getting involved and David soon learns that Lena's family and his have secret connections neither knew about before. Also pushing things forward are the investigative efforts of the activist lawyer Charles Kaminski (played by David Strathairn, who is the best thing in the movie), who knows more than he lets on and pushes David to find out the true identity of Lena's grandfather and mother.
The plot is very complex, but not difficult to follow. What makes this film merely competent as a whole are much hackneyed dialogue between David and Lena, and below-par acting on the part of the two leads. Levy is particularly wooden and unsympathetic as David, failing to make us feel David's mixed emotions as he manipulates Lena to find out more about her family.
Fortunately, Strathairn is in the film enough to compensate, and his fiery, electric performance is refreshingly different from the more frequent low-key characters he tends to play on film.
The pacing in "Meschugge" is fast and the film is never dull, though there is the occasional cinematic cliche (the 360 degree whirling camera around a character trick should be permanently retired, IMO). The remaining cast is good, though the talented Jeffrey Wright (of "Angels in America") is wasted in an irrelevant role as a photographer/love interest of Lena's who is tossed away quickly. Based on this film, Levy has more talent as a director than as a writer or actor.
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