Taking Sides | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Taking Sides

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Adapted by Ronald Harwood from his stage play, this dialectical drama has plenty of creaky moments, but Harvey Keitel compensates with a canny, surprising performance as an American major in postwar Germany who's ordered to make an example of the great conductor Wilhelm FurtwŠngler (Stellan Skarsgard) as part of the denazification program. A former insurance salesman and a musical philistine, the major is appalled by the Holocaust and disgusted by the conductor's arrogant conviction that his gifts make him "more than a citizen." The score mixes real FurtwŠngler recordings of Beethoven and Bruckner with re-creations by the CSO's Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin--including a rendition of Beethoven's Fifth that's interrupted by a bombing blitz in the film's impressive opening. Istvan Szabo (Mephisto) directed. 105 min. Music Box.

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