BERLIN IS BURNING, bombs are bursting in air, but inside a symphony hall, Felice—with glistening black eyes and the formidable bearing of a young Sigourney Weaver—manages to flirt with Lilly, a porcelain blonde married to a Nazi officer. How can Lilly resist the dark-haired siren whose charms are stronger than the force of a fleet? So begins their friendship, which turns into something more.
Maria Schrader as the irresistible Felice.
directed by Max F䲢erb�with Juliane K�r and Maria Schrader runs August 25-31 at Egyptian
Based on German author Erica Fischer's best-selling book about Lilly Wust's real-life wartime affair with the Jewish Felice Schragenheim, Max F䲢erb�s Aim饠& Jaguar is accordingly a love letter to Felice. In the film's present-day framing sections, an elderly Lilly is portrayed as a devoted but tight-lipped dame who wears the bitterness of solitary life like a well-tailored suit. "Fifty years," she pines, "and there's only one face, one name." (The names in the movie's title refer to their terms of endearment: Aim饠for innocent Lilly, Jaguar for experienced Felice.)
As played by Maria Schrader (Flirt), Felice is a graceful social chameleon. By day she's an industrious Lois Lane to her editor at a Nazi newspaper (while secretly passing sensitive photographs to the Underground). By night, she's a gamine seductress, chic in a tux or a cheongsam, a ringleader to her circle of lipstick lesbians. Her girlfriends, all Jewish, are less confident than Felice, but nervously go along with her games anyway. Ironically, they all pose for nude pictures intended for German soldiers at the front.
The girls' independent spirit is infectious, and it's not long before Lilly (Juliane K�r) thinks she could become one of them. Trussed up in satin and lace, Lilly watches the girls dance and remarks, "Your life is wonderful Felice, you're free." Of course, it's a wistful, ominous comment, and you know the party's going to come to a terrible end.
A bit overlong but filled with elegant period details and a swelling orchestral soundtrack, the film sets Lilly's transformation from Nazi housefrau to liberal lesbian within an idealized portrait of ordinary Germans' resistance to the war. Good civilians oppose the Holocaust and salvage as much sweetness and light as they can—coffee, rhumba, and Beethoven's Ninth—even as their homes are raided and their neighbors carted away. The Nazi's extermination of homosexuals hasn't exactly been popular material for the movies (Sean Mathias' 1997 stage-derived Bent is the only example in recent memory). F䲢erb�ducks the issue altogether. Mirroring Lilly's limited perspective, Aim饠is more romance than history.