Review: ‘For My Baby’

The perils of English-language Europuddings are nowhere better illustrated than in "For My Baby." A neo-Gothic, Vienna-set psychodrama, pic's director is Dutch, it was largely shot in Budapest and features a potentially strong British cast adopting a variety of bad accents. Resulting farrago could find some play in undiscriminating non-Anglo territories but is likely to be laughed off the screen by native speakers. Daniel (Scottish comedian Alan Cumming) is an egocentric standup comic whose sister, Hannah, died as a kid in a Nazi concentration camp. Halfway to Norman Bates hell, Daniel dresses up as her to please his half-dead hospitalized mom (Hungarian veteran Hedi Temessy) and is finally dumped by his long-suffering g.f. (Serena Gordon). Enter Lilian (Juliet Aubrey), a naive Texan on a scholarship in Europe, who falls for the half-crazed Daniel while trying to work out the connection of her father, a former Nazi scientist who emigrated to the U.S., to chemical tycoon Wittfogel (Frank Finlay), himself being investigated by two Jewish Nazi-hunters.

Fancily lensed by Hungarian d.p. Gabor Szabo in a style approaching “Mephisto,” the movie veers wildly from a love melodrama through a meditation on WWII guilt to some kind of weird psychosexual riff on “The Third Man.” English actress Aubrey’s perf is as wobbly as her Lone Star accent, and both Cumming and Finlay chew up the scenery with their Viennese ones. Bob Zimmerman’s big symphonic score tries to bring some order to the onscreen mess, but after a while only compounds the overheated theatricality of the whole affair.

For My Baby

(DUTCH)

Production

A Hungry Eye Pictures/VARA Television production, in association with Transatlantic Media Associates (Hungary). (International sales: Hungry Eye, Amsterdam.) Produced by Rene Seegers, Berry van Zwieten, Karel van Ossenbruggen. Co-producer, Laszlo Helle. Directed by Rudolf van den Berg. Screenplay, Michael O'Loughlin, Van den Berg; screen story, Van den Berg.

Crew

Camera (color), Gabor Szabo; editor, Kant Pan; music, Bob Zimmerman; production design, Lorand Javor; art direction, Tibor Lazar; costume design, Linda Bogers; sound (Dolby SR), Mark Holding, Paul Caar; assistant director, Gabor Gajdos; casting, Joyce Nettles. Reviewed at Nederlands Film Festival (competing)/Holland Film Meeting, Utrecht, Sept. 28, 1997. Running time: 103 MIN. (English dialogue)

With

Daniel Orgelbrand ..... Alan Cumming Lilian Glass ..... Juliet Aubrey Wittfogel ..... Frank Finlay Olga Jenikova ..... Elisabeth Spriggs Molly ..... Serena Gordon Elsa ..... Hedi Temessy
With: Timothy Bateson, Clive Russell, Cyril Shaps, Michael Cronin.
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