Enemies: A Love Story (1989) Poster

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40% Comedy + 60% Drama = 100% Great
xavrush8918 February 2005
When comedian Alan King passed away last year, I thought of his sweet performance in this should-be classic. One would not expect comedy to come from a story about Holocaust survivors, but this film takes the quirks of human behavior in the wake of tragedy and puts them on display, warts and all. I haven't read Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel, but I can't imagine him not being pleased with Paul Mazursky's winning adaptation. Poor Ron Silver though, he finally gets a lead role, and almost every scene of his is stolen by one of his three outstanding female co-stars.

Lena Olin has the showiest part as a fiery concentration camp survivor. Full of passion, bitterness, and paranoia all at the same time, she puts sex back into an era normally depicted as colorless and empty. I don't want to say too much about Anjelica Huston's role for fear of spoiling the intrigue each revelation about her character brings. She pulls off several humorous moments as well. But the real revelation is Margaret Sophie Stein. As Silver's wife whom he married out of gratitude, she is not as naive as she seems, and her performance anchors the film.

This movie snuck in under the wire at the tail end of the 'eighties, and seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle of high caliber end-of-the-year movies all seeking Oscar consideration. Some feel that its Best Picture nomination was stolen by Dead Poets Society. I am one of those people. But keep in mind that this was the year that Do the Right Thing was ignored in favor of more sentimental fare like Field of Dreams. Olin and Huston were nominated for their roles, but they lost to Brenda Fricker's tour de force performance as Christy Brown's mother in My Left Foot.

It bothers me that this film doesn't have more votes. Rent it, people!!! (Or better yet, buy a copy. When you see it, you'll want to.) You'll love the characters, and it's a great film to watch after you've seen something like Life is Beautiful. It is an unusual tale, but one I am glad someone thought to tell.
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Great transition from the book!
lennie_mo_28 November 2006
After reading the novel this film was based on, I thought: "No way! There is absolutely no way they can portray these raw emotions on film!" But that's exactly what the amazing actors do! The three women are as different as they could be, but each character is spot-on. Between these 3 women (Lena Olin, Anjelica Houston and Margaret Sophie Stein) is Ron Silver, whose character's emotions are clearly displayed on his face - I don't know if he is the anchor in the movie, because at times he is overshadowed by his female co-stars, but he makes me sympathize with him.

The "old" feel of the movie is great, and I do believe that it's a realistic image of New York in the late '40s.

It might be a bit depressing, but it should be seen if not only for the acting - trust me, it's fantastic!
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You can't choose just one
Helmholz3 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I bought this movie (DVD release) after looking for other films by Paul Mazursky after being enchanted by An Unmarried Woman (and finding out there's reportedly a DVD release for that on January 10th) and after reading xavrush89's comments.

I didn't know what to expect going into this movie, I usually try to find out enough to get interested but not enough to know what's going on. It worked, in this case.

Ron Silver plays a Polish Jew living in Coney Island after the Holocaust. It is 4 years after the end of WWII and he works as a writer and has a wife whom he wed because she protected him from the Nazis. Meanwhile, he's enjoying the company of another woman during 'business trips' when he finds out personally that his original wife thought to have been killed by Nazis is alive and in New York!! It sounds so absurd that you might think this movie is a comedy, but it's not. There are funny moments, but throughout this movie you will become wrapped up in the very serious moral dilemma of a man married to two women while he's in love with another and the conflicting emotions that all of the characters feel and experience.

The acting is top notch and every character is played by each respective actor remarkably. Everything they say and do is believable and realistic. Not to mention the excellent environments, although things look a little shiny and new.

One of my complaints involves the audio levels. At times it is extremely difficult to hear what the characters are saying, much less understand them with their (excellent) accents. There's dialogue that passed me by even after going back to listen to it twice at times.

Another complaint is the video restoration isn't all that great, but it keeps that '1989 look' and it's better than the ultra-crisp visuals of movies today.

But I don't have much to complain about as far as the actual movie goes, and that's a good thing. Entirely fascinating and skillfully produced and directed, it's one of those movies that was extremely interesting but hard to enjoy due to the nature of the struggles of the characters. Nonetheless it's a great film that you should see at least once.
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One of Paul Mazursky's high points.
lee_eisenberg4 March 2006
I once read about how Paul Mazursky's career as a director has gravitated between very well done ("Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice", "Moscow on the Hudson") and what-was-he-thinking?! ("Scenes from a Mall", "The Flying Pickle"). Well, I can say with certainty that "Enemies: A Love Story" is one of his good ones. Portraying Holocaust survivor Herman Broder (Ron Silver) living in New York in 1949 and suddenly surrounded by three women (his current wife, another married woman, and his first wife whom he believed to be dead), the movie presents an eye-opening situation. It's like a slice-of-life story taken one step further. As the three women, Margaret Sophie Stein, Lena Olin, and Anjelica Huston do a very good job. Definitely worth seeing.
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Surprisingly good
pbalos28 August 2000
It's one of those stories that may be better in print or would have more impact on the stage, however this works suprisingly well on film. The superb acting allows it to be both effective as a drama and comedy.For those familiar with NYC in the late 40's, the setting is most believable.It's far from boring, but one must adapt to the slow pace of the movie, which in fact, proves to be an asset.All 'n all; well done. 7/10
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Elegant Film, Moving Narrative, Wise Work of Art
TedMichaelMor4 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Director Paul Mazursky's "Enemies, A Love Story" interplays wondrous ironies, narrative twists, humour, and wisdom. With a keen eye for historical nuance and detail (which the director describes in a voice-over commentary on one DVD edition), he explores the limits of suffering and survival—the loss that one cannot transcend against a community that does transcend immense evil.

I very much like Fred Taylor's elegant cinematography as well as subtle editing by Stuart Pappé. These are important components of films. Casting seems to be perfect in a film with great depth worn (for the most part) lightly.

Some of the film deeply bothered me because I suffer from chronic depression. I could not watch this film more than twice. However, Roger Simon and the director have created a splendid adaptation from the Isaac Singer masterwork.

Ron Silver, always a gifted actor, never did any better work than this depiction of the paranoid, driven, and almost broken Herman Brother. Małgorzata Zajączkowska's tender Yadwiga, Herman's Polish Catholic savior and wife, centers the narrative by being more faithful to Judaism than her husband or his corrupt rabbi employer. Alan King as Rabbi Lembeck recalls for me a number of corrupt Protestant pastors I have known or for whom I worked. King plays this role with great skill.

No one but Anjelica Houston could play Tamara, Herman's first wife, and the one who with the second wife redeems tradition and the future. Lena Olin's Marsha overwhelmed me. She is why I cannot watch the movie again. What a powerful portrait of despair.

This is a great film. Watch it. It is a blessing and a boon.
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tao-32 January 1999
a hellish tale about a modern jobe from Bashevis Zinger's Novel. Herman Broder(Ron Silver), a holocaust surviver, lives in the 1940's New York with the polish peasant that hid hom during the war, has an affair with Mash (Lena Olin) , a half crazed camps survivor and has to deal with his first wife, supposedly dead, Tamara (Anjeliqua Huston). All of this is brought in a suffocated, sarcastic, sweaty manner, that you feel his suffering. An excellent performance by all of the above in a movie in a very impressive film
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worth a second look
mjneu5915 November 2010
Very little in the previous career of director Paul Mazursky gave any hint of the depth and complexity of this comedy drama, adapted from an Isaac Bashevis Singer story about the misadventures of a Jewish refugee (Ron Silver) in New York City shortly after World War Two. Silver has a few problems most men wouldn't mind sharing, including a wife who is more a devoted servant and a mistress as passionate as she is temperamental, but the cozy arrangement is complicated by the unexpected return of his first wife, long thought dead, to act as a ghostly conscience and councilor for her bewildered husband. The film is so well made, with such attention to period flavor and detail, that it seems mean to point out its few nagging shortcomings: the haphazard structure, with too many sudden, incompatible changes in mood, and the equally inconsistent characters (it's never made clear, for example, why all three women are so devoted to this particular nobody). Too bad some of the effort that went into the production didn't first go into the script, but it's still an unusually rich experience, with an added dimension of depth from the specters of the Holocaust still haunting each character.
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Extremely well executed, and I hope NEVER to watch it again
aromatic8 May 2001
Singer is a downer (except for the cinematically changed ending of Yentl), and this extremely well-performed and well-directed sado-masochistic tale is no exception. This film truly makes you feel its characters' abundant and excruciating pains. The Holocaust was Hell, and this film convinces me that the only thing worse than getting killed in a concentration camp, is surviving one.
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Corrections to earlier reviews
davew-1425 August 2016
One reviewer complained about struggling to hear the dialogue. This is due to a huge mistake made when the film was improperly mastered for DVD; some DVD players, especially if they are trying to create phantom surround tracks with a 2-channel stereo-only system, will play this superb film incorrectly. If you can, experiment with the sound settings on your A/V amplifier, and you will likely find something that works correctly. Perhaps someday someone will properly remaster this film for Blu-Ray. It's entirely possible the 5.1 version streaming on iTunes will play correctly - I haven't checked.

A reviewer from Turkey complained about everyone talking in Italian accents. This is absolutely not true, and, in fact, Margaret Sophie Stein, who plays Herman's Polish wife Yadwiga, is a native of Poland who had to work very hard to speak English for the film. As the sound supervisor on this film I know for a fact that the accents are very authentic.
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Well-acted but hollow...
moonspinner5529 March 2008
Filmmaker Paul Mazursky obviously lavished a lot of love on "Enemies: A Love Story", but the material's thin design shows through, that and a curiously limited budget which gives the nostalgic trimmings a misplaced, artificial appearance. Pretentious drama adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel takes place in New York 1949, with Holocaust survivor Ron Silver involved with three different women: his second wife, his mistress, and his first wife long thought deceased. Solid acting by Silver and Lena Olin, superb work by Anjelica Huston nearly keeps this stilted formula afloat, but the period flavor was too elaborate a feat for low-budget Mazursky to capture, and the finale is sadly ineffective. ** from ****
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Everything's nice but...
pinarbedirli3 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The acting was nice, the story good... But I am just wondering, why those people are speaking to each other with an Italian ACCENT all the time? I mean, they are Polish! "Herman Broder" is a guy, who escape from the Nazi's in Poland. They are Polish people with Jewish background. Just to make some simple minded watchers ("somewhere underdeveloped in Europe") clear that the main characters are Jewish, letting them speak with an Italian accent is so unbelievable! However, the acting was very nice and even if the sexual scenes are exaggerated a little bit, it is a good movie to watch (for adults - who can understand this) because some scenes are really heart-breaking... Can only recommend it.
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