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Max

Year: 2002
Production Co: AAMPI Inc
Director: Menno Meyjes
Producer: John Cusack
Writer: Menno Meyjes
Cast: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski
This is a fascinating historical fiction that takes a similar standpoint to that of The Last King of Scotland -looking at a figure of note through the prism of a forgotten/invented/fictional character.

John Cusack is Max, a wealthy, cynical and sardonic Jewish art dealer trying to make a living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1930s.

A scruffy and profane young soldier and First World War veteran comes to him hoping to exhibit his work, and Max takes the young man under his wing, encouraging him to find the soul of the artist within him.

But Max is unaware of the agitators gaining a toehold at the barracks of the young man, preaching purity of the Aryan blood and a German Nationalist superpower.

The young man falls increasingly under the sway of the political calling, a fruitless pursuit to Max and one robbing him of the creativity and energy he should be putting into painting.

If you haven't already guessed, the young man is Adolf Hitler, and his beliefs and actions set into motion a chain of events that not only affect Max but seal his own fate, one that - according to the movie - the whole world could have avoided.

Max is a brilliant film in almost every respect. The role of Max was tailor made for Cusack, but it's Taylor who enthrals in his portrayal as the world's most infamous despot in his formative years. Not just because we all know what became of Hitler's political ambitions but because Taylor's hollowed eyes, permanent snarl of indignation and sense of menace are exactly how we imagined the mildly talented young Hitler to be.

Screenwriter Meyjes isn't a name you'll have heard of, but he's been a screenwriter in the background of some well-known Hollywood films for years and presumably following the quality of Max, he's embarked on his directing career, next helming Cusack again in the feelgood Martian Child.

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