Love Comes Lately

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Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- German writer-director Jan Schutte's "Love Comes Lately" is based on three short stories by Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, but you would swear they derive from a much duller author. The slow-paced and often melancholy film contains none of the verve and vitality of Singer's stories. Schutte has taken on a salutary goal -- to make a film about aging characters that neither mocks nor pities them. Yet one longs for the wit and wisdom of Singer's own distinctive voice.

As it is, "Love Comes Lately" will probably get relegated to Jewish film festivals and ancillary markets.

Otto Tausig plays Max Kohn, an elderly Austrian-Jewish writer, perhaps a notch or two below the prestige of Singer but not lacking in awards or literary credentials, living a comfortable though somewhat anxious final years in his adopted Manhattan. He pecks away daily at his manual typewriter, suffers from nightmares involving sexual inadequacy yet has a longtime girlfriend (Rhea Pearlman), who pesters him with her paranoid jealousies over imagined infidelities. Or are they imagined?

A slim story covering his swing through New England by train to deliver a couple of university lectures -- where he surprises himself at one stop by bedding a long-ago student turned professor (Barbara Hershey) -- gets interrupted by two other stories he is supposedly writing and editing. These stories feature alter egos also played by Tausig.

Each is a tale of thwarted romances. Unaccountably, younger women keep flinging themselves at this octogenarian. Must be literary groupies.

The first one is a little bizarre involving a horny, crippled motel maid (Elizabeth Pena), a crazed hotel manager, a murder and another pushy widow (Caroline Aaron), who is left dangling. The second is a more complete story albeit a tragic one involving a lonely recently widowed woman (Tovah Feldshuh), who briefly comes on to the astonished neighbor.

The three-part film feels insubstantial and sketchy at every turn. About all that Schutte achieves is a decent understanding of the inner life of his central character, of Max's fantasies, fears, longings and despair. Everyone else seems like projections of that inner life but not part of any real life at all.

LOVE COMES LATELY
A Zero West production in co-production with Zero Fiction Film, Dor Film
Credits:
Writer/director: Jan Schutte
Based on stories by: Isaac Bashevis Singer
Producers: Martin Hagemann, Kai Kunnemann
Executive producers: W. Wilder Knight II, Alex Gibney
Director of photography: Edward Klosinski, Chris Squires
Production/costume designer: Amanda Ford
Music: Henning Lohner
Editors: Katja Dringenberg, Renate Merck
Cast:
Max Kohn: Otto Tausig
Riesle: Rhea Pearlman
Ethel: Tovah Feldshuh
Rosalie: Barbara Hershey
Esperanza: Elizabeth Pena
Running time -- 86 minutes
No MPAA rating

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