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'Transit': As in, Letters of ...

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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One has to be either a fool or a complicit coward not to recognize the mercilessness regularly perpetrated on humankind by immoral governments and their tyrannical leaders. Equally clueless are those who don't realize that the worldwide, mass immigration being used as a scapegoat by said guilty-as-sin autocrats is in essence a product of their regimes' greed, racism and ineptness.
 
Ever notice that the really bad guys are never ever wrong? While Rick in "Casablanca" (1942) occasionally confesses to a lack of judgement, you'll never hear good Nazi Major Strasser admitting a mistake. Civics Lesson No. 1: Rick is good; Major Strasser is bad.
 
What all this has to do with "Transit," adapted by director Christian Petzold from Anna Seghers' 1942 novel, is just about everything, albeit in an artistic, symbolic, poly-metaphorical way. Read the plot synopsis and it seems rather clear-cut: A man fleeing France from the invading Germans assumes, at first unintentionally, the identity of a dead author whose wife he falls in love with upon their chance meeting. She doesn't know her husband is dead. However, in weaving his muckraking tale of turmoil and inhumanity in the world of borders, checkpoints and provincialism, leave it to Petzold to invariably take the more obscure path.
 
Perhaps it's his form of audio-visual touch-n-feel in an attempt to make us appreciate the uncaring horror inflicted on those caught in the vice of tyrants playing at government. And just to make it a little more murky in an arthouse sort of way, especially for those watching it stateside with subtitles, while Seghers' story takes place in the 1940s, when the Nazis are indeed invading and occupying France, Petzold asserts a current poignancy by setting it in the present day. To further complicate matters, subtitles or not, you can't help but feel a tad disoriented by actors speaking German playing the French people who are being forced to flee from the Nazis who would "cleanse" them.
 
We are tossed headlong into the discomfort of the protagonist, Georg, ably played by Franz Rogowski, an everyman attempting to find some sort of mental and physical terra firma on which to stand in this never-ending upshot of a Babel toppled for its overweening vanity. Marie (Paula Beer), the starry-eyed wife who simply won't believe that her famous writer spouse is dead, co-represents the face of immigrants. They weren't born immigrants with DNA denoting that, but flung into it, putting a face on it. In short, people just like you and me. They once went to work, watched TV at night, rooted for Bernie at the little league game on Saturday and agonized about not being able to find a good, honest handyman. Now someone wants to see their letters of transit, and more often worse.
 
The film is a refresher course in what goes on if we blink too long and miss the signs alerting us to a democracy in jeopardy. Sadly, I know the story only too well, not because I am astute, but because I have been around for a while and those ignominious powers that be rarely take a break from their blatant attempts to evaporate our freedom. They are the bully in the playground who grew up without benefit of a life-changing epiphany. This isn't happy viewing. Still, while it would be more enjoyable were I a college sophomore parsing the recently screened film in a
coffee shop with my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cohorts, and planning how we will change the world, I'm grateful the discussion is still in progress.
 
Granted, it is esoterically embroidered. Yet even after we're confident that "Transit" is like something Aesop may have written were he determined to challenge the wiles and wherefores of contemporary totalitarianism, we're still at a bit of a loss. You can't help but feel that there is yet another cryptic element of human psychology to be deciphered, that there is a gene in some folks that not only precludes them from calling out obvious tyrants, but actually causes them to vociferously side with them. Organisms in good health move toward pleasure and away from pain. Thus, one needn't be Dr. Freud to understand that any aberration thereof is, well, aberrant, and in human beings specifically, downright unsociable.
 
Plopped atop all this high-minded contemplation, director Petzold submits a mini thesis on bravery and sacrifice in the face of world upheaval. And, proving that brilliant minds do indeed think alike, one should note that while the windup in "Transit" bears heroic similarities to "Casablanca," the two stories were written at about the same time. Both are primers of civic-mindedness that essentially ask, would that candidate you're about to vote for give up his or her letters of transit so that Victor Laszlo and Ilsa could continue their fight for freedom?
 
"Transit," not rated, is a Music Box Films release directed by Christian Petzold and stars Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer and Godehard Giese. Running time: 101 minutes
 

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North Adams Happenings: July 24-30

North Adams Happenings July 24 - 30, 2019

SAVE THE DATE
AUGUST 6th - National Night Out
4:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.Neighborhoods throughout North Berkshire once again join the North Adams Police, Fire, and Emergency Departments to host a variety of special events such as cookouts, games, contests, music and more!
More information.

AUGUST 14th - 23rd Annual Downtown Celebration
JOIN US! The  23rd Annual Downtown Celebration will take over downtown North Adams on Wednesday, August 14 from 5:30 – 9 PM.  
RAIN DATE: Thursday, August 15th
BUSINESSES AND VENDORS: Application still available.
More information.
Wednesday 7/24
10:00 A.M. (FREE, $5 to park), NATURE WALK, Nice 'N' Easy Walk Natural Bridge State Park, McCauley Road More information.  

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Terrific Tots Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.  

10:30 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Preschool Story Time North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.   


6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Keene Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

6:30 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Concerts at the Lake Presents The Matchstick Architects and Bang on a Can Windsor Lake, 200 Windsor Lake Road, (413) 664-6180 More information.

8:00 P.M. (FREE), GAMES, Trivia Night! Ramunto's, 67 Main Street, (413) 398-5152 More information.

Thursday 7/25
5:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, 2019 DownStreet Art Main Street More information.

5:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, The Chalet: Apocalypstick Redd The Chalet at Courtyard D, MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way  More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Party in the Park Presents The Hotshot Hillbillies Noel Field, 310 State Street   More information.
Friday 7/26
7:30 A.M. (FREE), MEET UP, NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet Coffee Date NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet, Eagle Street, thenamazinginitiative@gmail.com More information.

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Drop-In Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.

11:00 A.M. (FREE, PARKING $5), KIDS, Kidleidoscope New England's Natural Bridge, 1 McCauley Road More information.

6:00 P.M. ($1 and up), GAMES, BINGO! North Adams Elks 487 Lodge, 100 Eagle Street, (413) 664-9039 More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Upper Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

7:00 P.M. (BY DONATION), CRAFTING, Knitting Nights with Common Folk Common Folk, 73 Main Street More Information.

8:00 P.M. ($66-300), CONCERT, The Prentenders MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

8:30 P.M. (FREE), MOVIE, Movies Under the Stars at Colegrove Park Colegrove Park Elementary, 24 Church Street More information.

9:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Karaoke Friday! State Street Tavern, 167 State Street, (413) 664-9152 More information.
Saturday 7/27
9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. (FREE), MARKET,  North Adams Farmers Market St. Anthony's Parking Lot at Marshall Street and St. Anthony's Drive (413)664-6180 More information.

12:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Peace & Rhythm InStore Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

2:00 P.M. ($25), ART, Artist Talk with Chrissie Hynde MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, Open Studios at MASS MoCA Assets for Artists, 1320 Mass Moca Way More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. New Bedford Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

8:00 P.M. ($18-44), CONCERT, Adia Victoria MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.
Sunday 7/28
12:00 P.M. (FREE), PICNIC, Annual Summer Picnic Horrigan Road, Clarksburg More information.

3:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Public Puberty/Carbus/Human Pontiac Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), FOOD & MUSIC, Racks and Stacks (barbecue and vinyl music) A-oK Berkshire Barbecue, 2601 Mass MoCA Way More information.
 
Monday 7/29
1:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Crafternoons! North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Discovery Mondays- Space Themed North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.
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