The Farewell | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Farewell

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In the summer of 1956, an ailing Bertolt Brecht spends one last day at his cottage on the outskirts of East Berlin, presiding over a wide assortment of lovers like an exasperated patriarch. Among the women jostling for his attention are Danish actress Ruth Berlau, editor and translator Elisabeth Hauptmann, stage ingenue Kathe Reichel, and Isot Kilian, the mistress of a hotheaded political agitator--not to mention Brecht's long-suffering wife, Helene Weigel, and resentful daughter, Barbara. As portrayed by the burly, sad-eyed Josef Bierbichler, Brecht is less a literary lion than an exhausted intellectual at the end of his rope, both creatively and ideologically (he would die a few weeks later, shortly after returning to work with his Berliner Ensemble). The script, by playwright and Brecht scholar Klaus Pohl, carefully notates the conflicted motives and complex emotions of an isolated group clinging to the past, and the players are superbly understated. Jan Schutte (Dragon Chow) directed this 2000 German feature; the wonderfully terse score is by John Cale. In German with subtitles. 91 min. Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, July 19, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday, July 20, 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00; Sunday, July 21, 3:00 and 5:00; and Monday through Thursday, July 22 through 25, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114.

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