7 Blog

Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Emma’ brings Jane Austen into the 21st century

A woman I once was in love with used to remind me regularly that not everyone enjoys the kind of privilege that we're accustomed to seeing on television, in the pages of most magazines and even in newspaper advertisements.

That sentiment extends, of course, to the access that many of us have even to something as basic as Internet access — much less the kinds of streaming services that Internet providers carry. Such as Netflix.

 That said, those who do enjoy such access are likely taking advantage — if advantage is the correct term — of this era of COVID-19 self-quarantine to screen movies that were supposed to have been released in theaters. Movies such as the latest adaptation of the Jane Austen novel "Emma," which I was fortunate enough to be able to watch this week.

And which I reviewed for Spokane Public Radio:

The English novelist Jane Austen died more than two centuries ago. Yet her novels remain in print, her literary reputation if anything grows ever stronger as time passes. and film producers simply can’t get over their fascination for both the characters she created and the stories whose landscapes they tread.

Considering the the various adaptations include such acclaimed films as Ang Lee’s 1995 “Sense and Sensibility” and both Robert Z. Leonard’s 1940 and Joe Wright’s 2005 versions of “Pride and Prejudice,” they have a point.

The latest adaptation of Austen’s works is “Emma,” which – because the theaters are now closed – is available instead through the streaming service Amazon Prime. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, the film is based on a script written by Eleanor Catton – though it’s taken largely from the pages of Austen’s fourth novel, also titled “Emma,” which was first published in 1815. 

Emma the title character is Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a somewhat spoiled woman of the landed gentry whose youth and attitude toward the importance of social class give her a sense that she knows what’s best for everyone around her – which, of course, makes her ripe for a lesson in humility (one of Austen’s main themes).

The need for such a lesson become obvious fairly early when she harpoons the potential happiness of her new companion, Harriet (played by Mia Goth), a girl Emma believes is also a scion of gentility. Proposed to by a good man, who just happens to be a local tenant farmer – thus someone Emma looks upon disapprovingly – Harriet is persuaded to decline the offer.

See, Emma has had past success as a matchmaker, and she’s confident that she can do the same for Harriet. And so she tries to set her young friend up with the local vicar, Mr. Elton (played by Josh O’Connor). Elton, though, has eyes for Emma herself – and so the matchmaking plan fails, leaving Eton crushed and Harriet even more bereft.

But is Emma through? No, because Austen has filled her novel with a number of characters, including at least one – and maybe two – other potential matches for Harriet. And Emma isn’t one to give up easily, though it’s only a matter of time – and a number of hurt feelings involving even more doomed matchmaking attempts – before Emma both sees how impulsively wrong she has been and ultimately falls prey to the pangs of love herself.

Speaking of those others characters, the most notable ones include Emma’s father (played by the incomparable Bill Nighy), the flippity Miss Bates (played by the actress and stand-up comic Miranda Hart), Mr. Elton’s pretentious new wife (Tanya Reynolds) and the Woodhouse’s hunky neighbor, Mr. Knightley (played by the equally hunky Johnny Flynn).

Like the 1996 adaptation of “Emma,” directed by Douglas McGrath and starring Gwyneth Paltrow, de Wilde’s film both streamlines Austen’s novel and makes it far more palatable for a modern audiences. Unfortunately, de Wilde adds in a musical score that, at least in the film’s first half, feels as intrusive as it does – at times – sitcomish.

Yet Taylor-Joy, who first found fame in Robert Eggers’ 2015 Puritan shocker “The Witch,” is not only a good actress but she has a face – particularly a set of eyes – that the camera adores. Which is a plus. And regardless, the basis of “Emma” is Austen, and there’s enough of her here to please pretty much everyone except the crankiest of Austen scholars.

My biggest complaint about de Wilde’s film is that I wish she had found more for Nighy to do because every movie would be improved by having more of Bill Nighy – even a movie based on the work of the great Jane Austen.

Thinking of food in this time of quarantine

Above: The Bangkok Thai restaurant on the South Hill is just one of numerous local eateries that is doing take-out business.

Here's the latest from our roving food writer, Leslie Kelly, who is living on the road with her husband, John Nelson, and doing regular reports both for The Spokesman-Review and for Forbes.com.

I worked with both Leslie and John when were all were staff writers (John was a designer and page editor, Leslie a restaurant reviewer) at The Spokesman-Review. Both John and Leslie went on to work at both the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before they bought an RV and became writing nomads.

In this time of COVID-19, few if any of us will be heading south to Arizona. But when (or if) you eventually do, you might want to check out Leslie's Arizona-based suggestions.

Until then, we should all take as much advantage of our own area's take-out opportunities. The local restaurants need our support.

Netflix’s ‘Criminal: UK’ shows Tennant at his best

In between doing laundry and fixing meals yesterday, I watched most of the "Ong Bak" trilogy, the three films starring — and co-written and directed by — the Thai action star Tony Jaa.

In any list of martial-arts stars, Jaa has to rank at or near the top. Some of the stunts that he pulls off, especially in the first film, are incredible. My favorite: While running down the street, he jumps — at a full gallop — through a ring of barb (or is that barbed?) wire.

The second and third films have their moments, too. The fight Jaa's character has with dozens of enemies while dodging between and through the legs of a massive elephant is impressive, too.

But the "Ong Bak" trilogy is something that I pulled from my personal library. What I want to write about today is something that I saw recently while streaming Netflix: the first episode of a three-episode series titled "Criminal: UK."

Actually, the series I'm referring to is part of a larger 12-episode series titled just "Criminal" and featuring police procedure (involving interrogation, mostly) set in four different countries: the U.K., France, Germany and Spain. And we're going to watch them all.

And that's because the first one was so good. It stars David Tennant, the former "Doctor Who" (he was the 10th incarnation, preceding Matt Smith), as a doctor accused of raping and then murdering his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

Grilled by investigators, the doctor responds to their questions with a continual refrain of "no comment." But as the police team shifts its methods, so does the doctor — and pretty soon we viewers are tossed back and forth, not sure who to believe. Until the very end.

Every performance is top notch, as you would expect from a British cast. But Tennant proves, as he did in "Broadchurch," that he is as talented as actors come.

Can't wait to watch the others. And now I have the time — if I can just break away from my Asian martial-arts collection. And the laundry.

‘Blow the Man Down’: a little film steeped in irony

My local grocery store has, like most others, reduced its hours of business. Moreover, it's reserved the time between 7 and 9 a.m. for seniors.

So, since I fall into that category, I went out this morning at 7:45 just to see what was different. And what I found was … not much. It was basically the same foot traffic as two days ago at 3 p.m. And not everyone I saw was a senior.

Whatever, like everyone else, I've been spending a lot more time inside. And besides reconnecting with friends on social media (some of whom I haven't talked to in months), studying a little Spanish and Italian, and reading (I'm tackling Jill Lepore's American history tome "These Truths: a History of the United States"), I'm watching a lot of new stuff on television.

One of the movies I watched recently carries an interesting title: "Blow the Man Down," which I saw courtesy of Amazon Prime.

The plot is simple enough. Sisters Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) have just overseen their mother's funeral when they discover that not only did the woman not leave them anything but that they won't even have ownership of their house.

In her anger, the younger Mary Beth runs out, heads for a bar, meets a guy and … well, things don't go well. And quickly enough, she heads back home to seek Priscilla's help. Which involves both in a serious crime.

Meanwhile, the village mothers — who have long endured the presence of a house of prostitution in the town — set out to tell proprietor Enid (Margo Martindale) that she will have to close down. Seems Enid's sole protector was the deceased woman, and the village mothers are tired of the problems the business causes.

The two main subplots combine when the sisters stumble upon a pile of cash that belongs to Enid, and Enid — fighting both the impending shutdown and one of her own disgruntled employees — threatens to expose them if they don't return the ill-gotten gains.

And all the while, a couple of Barney Fife cops are investigating the death of a woman whose body washed up on a local shoreline.

One thing that makes "Blow the Man Down" worth watching is its shifting tone. The acting is good enough, not just by Lowe and Sayjor but by the veteran Martindale. The tone, though, is even more interesting, weaving as it does between a slight sense of comedy and then delving into the more serious (one scene of violence is particularly graphic).

That tone-based sleight-of-hand combined with the story's emphasis on telling the story of women makes this little film part of a larger social movement. And the conceit of having a chorus of grizzled fishermen singing throughout the film is a particularly clever, ironic device.

And who doesn't appreciate a little irony now and then.

‘Homecoming’ makes for an intriguing binge-watch

Funny all the stuff you can find to do during a self-isolating quarantine. And what you can discover while doing it.

Example: I was sorting out the cupboards yesterday and found cans of stuff dated 2012. Seems I need to keep better tabs on our pantry items.

But then that might cut into the time I spend watching movies and other streaming material. One of our latest binge-watches: the Amazon Prime limited series "Homecoming," which premiered in the fall of 2018.

Starring Julia Roberts (who did double duty as one of the executive producers), Bobby Cannavale, Stephan James and Shea Whigham, the 10-part limited series uses a blend of soft sci-fi and hard mystery to explore a range of contemporary issues. Those issues range from how we treat veterans to the ways those in power can badger their underlings — especially when those in power are men and the underlings are women.

Roberts plays Heidi Bergman, a managing counselor at Homecoming, a privately contracted company that is providing help to veterans having trouble readjusting to civilian life. Cannavale is Colin Belfast, Heidi's boss, while James is Walter Cruz, Heidi's client. And Whigham is Thomas Carrasco, a low-level Department of Defense functionary who is investigating a complaint leveled against Homecoming.

Told in short bursts — each episode, directed by Sam Esmail,  is barely longer than a half hour — "Homecoming" ends up being a fairly simple storyline (which I won't give away), marked by a fairly open ending (a second season is in the works), good acting and impressive production values.

The acting is particularly good, from Roberts, whose character gradually recovers a suppressed memory about her actions at Homecoming, to Cannavale, an actor with a likable quality who explores his dark side here. James, so good in the 2018 film "If Beale Street Could Talk," is refreshing as Heidi's chief client. And Whigham, who played a violent thug in the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," is effective as a bumbling but doggedly conscientious investigator.

And the production values, from a framing conceit involving past and present storylines, to the use of music — some of which seems almost (but not quite) to work against the seriousness of what's occurring onscreen — are uniquely well done.

Word is that Julia Roberts won't be returning for Season Two but that James will. And that Janelle Monáe and Chris Cooper will be joining in. I'll surely be joining in, too.

But for now, I'm just glad I watched Season One. And that it kept me from checking out the rest of my pantry.

Who knows what I might find next? Judge Crater?

Time to support your favorite local business

Of the many online stories I've been reading regarding the Coronavirus, some of the most interesting have been about how to survive living as shut-ins.

Like this one. Or this one. Or, for those of you with a sense of humor, this one.

Other than the occasional trip to the store for essentials (and, no, I haven't been hoarding toilet paper), my wife and I have been doing what we can to abide by the social-distancing dictates. And so far it seems to be working.

Though, let's be honest here, it's still early yet.

Other than the health of those I love, though, I worry about local businesses. Especially those smaller businesses that depend on foot traffic. Not just the movie theaters such as The Magic Lantern or The Garland (as well as the chain groups) but the restaurants and coffee shops, etc.

And especially the bookstores. Unlike grocery and cannabis stores, which at this point seem to be doing landmark business, bookstores are in trouble. And that's especially true for one of Spokane's literary treasures, Auntie's Books.

In a personal message, I asked Auntie's owner John Waite what he needed. And he replied, "Just customers."

He also stressed that the store is still open, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. "And," he added, "we are doing mail order and curbside pickup."

Reading has helped us survive other national crises. Your local bookstores can help us get through this one, too.

Below: In 2018, owner John Waite helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of Auntie's Bookstore. May the store enjoy 40 more years. 

Netflix’s ‘The Valhalla Murders’: a review

As I, along with most everyone else, have been stuck at home trying to avoid the Coronavirus, I've missed going to the movies. So I've had to feed my film addiction by watching TV. Here is my latest review of a television limited series that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

In recent years, some of the most popular mystery novels have come from Scandinavian countries. From the Martin Beck novels of Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall and the Kurt Wallander novels of Henning Mankell – all of whom hailed from Sweden – to the Harry Hole novels of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø, we’ve been entertained with all the intricacies of Scandinavian murder and police procedure.

Naturally, some of this has been adapted for movies and television. In 1973, Wahlöö and Sjöwall’s 1968 novel “The Laughing Policeman” was adapted for U.S. movie audiences, set in San Francisco of all places and starring Walter Matthau. More recently, Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” novels have been adapted both for Swedish and U.S. distribution.

And television, especially the more popular streaming services, haven’t been far behind. Even if you don’t subscribe to the services that specialize in mystery fare – BritBox, for example, or MHz Choice – you can find any number of crime series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes and more.

One of my personal favorites is the four seasons of the original Swedish-Danish production “The Bridge,” which dates back to 2011 and involves a Swedish woman detective (played by Sofia Helin) who partners, over time, with two different Danish counterparts to solve a number of gruesome murders.

Since I’ve been more or less holed up at home over the past week – thank you, COVID-19 – I’ve been looking for other mysteries to watch. And that led me to the Netflix Original series “The Valhalla Murders.”

Originally commissioned by RUV – the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service – “The Valhalla Murders” aired in Iceland in 2019 and was released by Netflix this past March 13.

The series, which comprises eight episodes, is set in and around Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. It involves a police investigator named Kata (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir) who is assigned a murder case that quickly becomes a serial-murder case. Assigned to assist her is Arnar (Björn Thors), an investigator who, though called in from Oslo, is a native Icelander.

As with all such programming, the storyline involves far more than merely a who-dunnit. As the police work diligently, mostly a step or two behind the murderer, they eventually discover not only who the perpetrator is but the source of why the crimes have been committed – which leads, gradually, to a far larger web of corruption in the country’s upper circles.

And all of it revolves around a long-ago-closed juvenile detention center called Valhalla.

Meanwhile, each of our protagonists faces personal challenges. The divorced and work-obsessed Kata has to deal with her officious Ex (and his much younger new wife) in their shared dealings with Kata’s 16-year-old son – dealings that become complicated after the boy attends a teen party in which a crime takes place.

For his part, Arnar still has family in Reykjavik. But he’s estranged from them, even from his sister who keeps calling him, telling him that their father is dying. And that estrangement is due to his family’s conservatively religious concerns and to his own troubled past, both of which are clearly connected.

Other than some essential plot points and basic character defects that “The Valhalla Murders” shares with other police-procedural series, though, I have only one real criticism: the subtitling. In some cases, the subtitles disappeared before we could read them; in other cases, there was no translation at all of what was likely important dialogue – leaving us to guess what was being said.

And, hey, I can’t even pronounce Icelandic, much less read it.

All that said, “The Valhalla Murders” – each episode of which runs a little more than 45 minutes – is definitely worth a binge-watch. A few years ago, my wife and I drove the entirety of Iceland’s Ring Road (scroll through the pages of The Spokesman-Review's now-defunct special section Platinum and you'll find my travel piece). It’s a breathtakingly beautiful country, in sunny weather or when covered in snow.

Even when accompanying a storyline involving a particularly ugly series of crimes, that natural beauty shines though.

Below: If you can't understand the language in the embed below, at least you can appreciate the visuals.

Life on the road in a time of Coronavirus

As some of you may know, my friends and former Spokesman-Review colleagues Leslie Kelly and her husband John Nelson are living their life these days on the road.

The couple shares their experiences in stories that run in the SR. And, yeah, that's them in the above photo.

In addition to their SR stories, both write for other publications. John's stories, mostly about hiking, biking and skiing, have been published in both the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Leslie, meanwhile, has been writing a lot recently for the online edition of Forbes magazine. Here, in fact, is a link to her latest story.

Take a moment and read it. Digest it. And then share it.

Every single hit helps freelance writers.

COVID-19 causes SIFF 2020 to pull the plug

And the bad news just keeps coming. Now comes word that the Seattle International Film Festival is canceling its 2020 event.

SIFF, which would have been celebrating its 46th anniversary, was scheduled to run from May 14 to June 7. But because of concerns about COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, festival organizers decided to pull the plug.

"The looming uncertainty of this crisis, and the huge amount of work that would have to be done now, makes it impossible to continue as scheduled," the festival announced on its website. "In addition to not being able to bring on nearly 100 seasonal workers, as well as previously announced cinema staff furloughs, we are placed in the untenable position of furloughing the majority of our staff."

If you've already purchased tickets to this year's event, SIFF has a request: Consider not seeking a refund and let the money you've spent act as a donation. Those who want to "consider other options," though, are invited to submit their request via this form or email boxoffice@siff.net.

Now the festival is left with the problem of how to recover.  "When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we won't be able to flip a switch and start back up with business as usual," reads the SIFF announcement. "We must pivot our current circumstances into an opportunity to innovate and reimagine a stronger, more sustainable and exciting future for SIFF and activate the philanthropic community to help us."

The hope? "The day will come when we gather again to share great films, community, and experiences."

It's certainly a nice thought. Since SIFF is one of the country's best attended film festivals, we'll have to console ourselves with that.

Below: The trailer for SIFF 2019.

Stay home, wash hands, stay safe, watch TV

There are, of course, many ways to respond to a crisis. Even a health crisis such as the one that's being caused by COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus.

And as one popular meme being shared across social media says, our ancestors were called to war to save lives, while we're being called to sit on the couch to save theirs. Surely we can do that.

Such a meme is an example of one way that I tend to respond to life in general, much less a crisis. I resort to "M*A*S*H" humor.

Which is what I'm inclined to do now that so many resources that we all take for granted have been shuttered, at least temporarily. Restaurants, concert venues and — hardest for me, personally — movie theaters.

Of course, the fact that I can't see a movie in a theater is far worse for the theater, and the employees who work there, than it is for me. I can, and will, opt for watching movies at home courtesy of whatever streaming service I can afford.

Not that I'll be able to see all of the most recent movies, some of which — the Bond film "No Time to Die" comes to mind — have been postponed until the fall. Still, some of the movies just released will be made available for streaming, so there's that.

So, until the movie theaters reopen, and assuming life returns to some semblance of normal, I will join much of the rest of humanity and wait for whatever comes next.

And in between washing my hands, and making the occasional trip to the grocery store, I'll watch what I can on my big-screen TV.

My latest viewing experience: "The Valhalla Murders" on Netflix. It's a limited series about Icelandic revenge killings.

Just the thing for fans of dark humor.

Menemsha Films offers discounted viewing

I just saw this Facebook posting by the Spokane Jewish Cultural Film Festival. It comes from Ben Saari, the marketing director of Menemsha Films:

From Menemsha Films:

"Dear Friends,

"We hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe during these uncertain times. A number of festivals reached out to us, asking how we can work together to bring our films to their festival audiences to enjoy at home while public events are being postponed or cancelled. Of course, we want to help however we can.

"For starters, we have discounted ALL of our titles available digitally on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video (for rental or purchase) for a limited time, to allow audiences to enjoy these quality Jewish films from the comfort of their homes.

Saari attached a graphic that highlighted the 34 Menemsha films now on sale at both sites. "Each of these titles are available now for a .99 cent rental or $4.99 purchase," Saari continued. "More information about each of these titles can be found on our website."

I would add that some of the best films that I see every year play at both the SJCFF and the Spokane International Film Festival, one being the movie previewed below. So this is great news, and not just because the theaters are (temporarily?) closed.

No movies? Go online for info, entertainment

During a normal week, this is the time that I would be posting Friday's movie schedule. But this is hardly a normal week.

What with all the coronavirus fears out there, which I am not discounting, the entertainment and culinary industries have been hard hit. Governor Jay Inslee took the radical step of ordering the closure of movie theaters and restaurants (except for "take-out and delivery services").

So, what to do. Well, first of all, be safe. Here is some good advice regarding that.

And always keeps in mind the best advice offered by "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

As for watching stuff, I'll start going through all the streaming choices that I have made over the past several months to give you some ideas on what to do in your (growing) spare time.

Let's start with this idea: 12 Famous Museums and Galleries You Can Virtually Visit From Your Own Couch.

Not bragging or anything, but I've been to nine of them in person. When (and if) things get better, all are worth a visit.

Oh, and BTW, in the video below you'll see the actual ancient Gates of Babylon.

Below: One of my favorite museums, Berlin's The Pergamon.

Irish comedy ‘Extra Ordinary’ is a comic curiosity

"Extra Ordinary," which is scheduled to open today at the Magic Lantern, is no ordinary comedy.

For one thing, it's Irish. I mean, completely Irish, from most of its cast (excluding the American comedic actor Will Forte) to its setting and dour sense of humor.

For another, it's a blend of comedy and paranormal/satanic horror. Imagine a cross between "Ghostbusters" and — oh, I don't know — "Waking Ned Devine"?

But while that combination of plot points might seem just a tad strange, the cast that co-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman managed to snare makes it work. Especially Maeve Higgins, the stand-up comic who along with Ahern and Loughman contributed to the film's screenplay.

Higgins plays Rose Dooley, a driving instructor with a past she would just as soon forget, that of a paranormal investigator who had the ability to contact spirits. But while still a child, Rose made a mistake that proved fatal for her father.

So now she teaches driving, though not particularly well, and she ignores the various presences that she passes by every day. That is, she ignores them until she is contacted by Martin Martin (Barry Ward), a single dad who is worried about his daughter (Emma Coleman), who is the target of a one-hit-wonder singer-songwriter and satanist named Christian Winter (Forte).

What happens then involves satanic rituals, a ghostly ex-wife, demonic possession, a manic bird, a budding romance and, despite such an offbeat blend of detail, an ongoing sense of low-key comedy — much of it due to Higgins' understated comic delivery.

Oh, and Ward — who is required to impersonate several different characters, not to mention vomit on cue — is good, too. On the other hand, "Saturday Night Live" veteran Forte brings a feel to the project that seems out of sync with the Irish cast members (especially during one scene of graphic violence).

The thing is, no simple recitation of the plot of "Extra Ordinary" can fully explain its appeal. But like comedy itself, that appeal will likely prove personal.

All I can say is that it made me laugh. And more than once.

Catch the original ‘King Kong’ on Sunday

It's hard to gauge just how much effect the original version of "King Kong" had on the movie industry. Yet the late Roger Ebert insisted that the film was "the father of 'Jurassic Park,' the 'Alien' movies and countless other stories in which heroes are terrified by skillful special effects."

Directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, the 1933 production was groundbreaking production. It featured stop-motion special effects by Willis O'Brien that, though tame by today's efforts, were revolutionary for the time.

If you haven't ever seen the film on the big screen, well, now's your chance. 'King Kong" will screen for one day only, at 1 and 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Regal Cinemas theaters at Northtown Mall and at Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.

Speaking of Ebert, here is more of his review: "The movie plunders every trick in the book to create its illusions, using live action, back projection, stop-motion animation, miniatures, models, matte paintings and sleight-of-hand," he wrote.

"But," he added, " 'King Kong' is more than a technical achievement. It is also a curiously touching fable in which the beast is seen, not as a monster of destruction, but as a creature that in its own way wants to do the right thing."

Doing the right thing. Strange notion in 2020. Even for a lovesick gorilla.

See ‘Jakob der L├╝gner’ Thursday at the MAC

The story of how the 1975 film "Jacob the Liar" ("Jakob der Lügner") was made  may be even more interesting than the film itself. And since the film is the only East German film to ever get nominated for an Academy Award, that's saying something.

You'll likely get the whole story at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday when the film will screen as part of the Matinee Movie Classics series at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. That's because Shaun O’L. Higgins will be doing the presenting.

Higgins is one of the hosts of Spokane Public Television's Saturday Night Cinema.

In brief, production on the film began in 1966. Due to a number of difficulties, from government censorship to the virtual blackballing of the film's projected director, Frank Beyer, production was stopped. Screenwriter Jurek Becker then turned his screenplay into a novel, which was published in 1969, and production on the film eventually resumed in 1974.

A version of the film was screened on television before it was finally released in theaters in April 1975.

"Jacob the Liar," which is set during the final months of World War II, tells the story of a man — the Jacob of the film's title — who resides in a German-controlled Jewish ghetto in Poland. When he learns by chance that the Soviet army is approaching, he spreads the news — only no one believes him. So he lies and says that he heard the news on a radio that he has hidden. And he begins inventing further news, which his neighbors believe.

In his review in the New York Times, critic A.H. Weiler wrote that "if there is little doubt as to the drama's inevitable, tragic denouement, 'Jacob the Liar' is, in effect, a heartwarming saga and one that illustrates Mark Twain's observation that 'courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, and not the absence of fear.' "

And don't confuse the 1975 film, which is in German with English subtitles, with the 1999 remake starring Robin Williams. That film was described by The Washington Post this way: "But the best thing about 'Jakob the Liar' is that it's not 'Patch Adams at Auschwitz.' "

Ouch.