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The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters

Let’s get it out of the way first: Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters was nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, controversially at the exclusion of a handful of borderline masterpieces, from Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days to the upcoming Silent Light and Secret Sunshine. Though it feels disingenuous to bring up the most notoriously boorish, nonsensically designed of all Academy Award categories when discussing a film’s merits, perhaps it’s productive to point out all the reasons why a film such as The Counterfeiters gets that slot over more difficult, rewarding, and harder to categorize films that would need the recognition to make any waves outside of small, cinephilic circles.

The Counterfeiters is the bread and butter of the Academy, not to mention film festival audiences everywhere, and as such, seems to have been designed solely to win plaudits: a Holocaust drama that effectively mixes raw, “realistic” violence with a narrative of moral uplift that prizes individual strengths, inferring that overcoming is possible; a main character who’s just the right, ingratiating mix of stoic and rascally; a litany of latter-day Euro cinema-of-quality cliches predicated upon a central moral conundrum that grants the film its supposed complexity; a German filmmaker grappling with the demons of his own nation and family (Ruzowitzky’s grandparents were Nazi collaborators) and daring to depict the impossible.

Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of The Counterfeiters.

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