[Marxism] Go For Zucker

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 10 08:47:50 MST 2006


Scheduled for release in NYC on January 20, “Go For Zucker” (Alles auf 
Zucker!) is a genial farce with aspirations to a level of political satire 
that it generally fails to reach. However, this story of two middle-aged 
and long-lost German brothers--one a nonobservant and dissolute “Ostie” who 
lives in Berlin and the other an orthodox Jew from Frankfurt--is well worth 
seeing.

When Jaeckie Zucker (Henry Hübchen) receives news of his mother’s death, it 
could not come at a more inconvenient time. He is all set to participate in 
a billiards tournament for a 100,000 Euro top prize. That money will help 
to pay off his gambling debts and to keep his shady nightclub--that has all 
the appearances of a brothel--in business.

His mother has left instructions to be mourned and buried in Berlin. 
Furthermore, her will stipulates that unless Jaeckie reconciles with his 
brother Samuel Zuckerman (Udo Samuel) who he has nicknamed the "ayatollah", 
her estate will be left to a synagogue in Berlin. Additionally, she demands 
that Jaeckie follow Jewish rituals during a 7 day mourning period, called 
‘shivah’, the Hebrew word for seven. Although Jaeckie, a resolute communist 
despite his wastrel ways, has bitter contempt for religion of any sort, he 
is pressured by his wife into respecting his mother’s wishes. Although she 
is a gentile, Marlene (Hannelore Eisner) looks forward to satisfying Jewish 
customs in her household. To some extent, she is inclined to put a plus 
wherever her husband puts a minus. Indeed, just before they have received 
word of his mother’s death, Marlene has decided to throw Jaeckie out.

Since Jaeckie is only expecting his brother, he is chagrined to discover 
that Samuel arrives at the airport with the entire mispochah (family). This 
includes his wife, daughter and son Joshua who wears a broad-brimmed hat, 
black suit, long beard and a permanent glower on his face. By contrast, 
Jaeckie’s son Thomas, who is about the same age as Joshua, is a 
clean-shaven yuppie. As the two parties gaze in stupefaction at each other, 
the audience quite rightly expects the film to unfold as a series of comic 
contradictions.

On this front, the film is completely successful. In many ways, it 
satisfies in the same way that the HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” 
does. Writer and lead character (who plays himself) Larry David has mined 
Jewish identity for both comic material and social commentary. Dani Levy, 
the Swiss Jewish director and screenwriter of “Go For Zucker” who probably 
is unfamiliar with David’s work, has made a film that covers the same sort 
of terrain. In the latest season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David 
decides to hold a Passover seder at his house but scandalizes his guests by 
inviting a sex offender who has moved to the neighborhood. This is Larry's 
way of showing gratitude for the sex offender showing him a new golf swing.

When Larry tries somewhat unsuccessfully to convince his guests that 
forgiveness is an important Jewish value, he is in the same boat as Jaeckie 
who gets caught sneaking off to the billiards tournament during shivah. He 
tries to persuade Joshua, who has been put in charge of making sure that 
the mother's will is honored, that it is a mitzvah to win money that will 
keep his barmaids employed.  The parts of the film that are devoted to such 
ploys tend to the cheap gag, which it should be said might satisfy 
conventional audience expectations. “Go For Zucker” played for 44 
consecutive weeks in Germany and 15 in Israel. The production notes 
indicate that the film was the highest grossing German-ethnic film to date. 
Since one cannot be sure how many other films can be categorized in this 
genre, it is difficult to gauge the film’s achievement. Suffice it to say 
that it is genuinely entertaining.

The film is also an important document as a contribution to the return of 
Jews to Germany, including Dani Levy himself who states in an interview 
that is part of the production notes:

“A lot of Jewish families returned to Germany after the end of the Nazi 
regime. Despite the catastrophic history and the enormous scale of 
destruction, they retained their sense of homeland here. My mother was born 
and raised in Berlin. In 1939, at the age of 12, she fled Germany with her 
father. The fact that I returned to Berlin 40 years later, that I 
established myself here in manifold fashion, is an irony of my family history.”

Although Levy does not mention it, it might occur to some that the ongoing 
tragedy of both the Jewish and Palestinian people might have been spared if 
a similar decision had been made by Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust. 
Germany was not the enemy of the Jews; a capitalist system in crisis was.

--

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