I became intrigued with Stefan Zweig after falling in love with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was inspired by his writing about Europe between the world wars. I went on to read an anthology of his work edited by Budapest director Wes Anderson, The Society of the Crossed Keys. Zweig was widely known and celebrated in his time; he deserves to be better known today.

Maria Schrader’s new film (which she wrote in collaboration with Jan Schomburg) is a vivid and often heartbreaking look at the author in exile during the 1930s and early 1940s, with telling episodes in New York City and Brazil. At a crucial meeting of P.E.N. (the international society of poets, essayists, and novelists) held in Buenos Aires in 1936 he refused to condemn the National Socialist party in Germany and struggled to isolate himself from politics. What concerned him was the demise of European civilization that he cherished, a situation he mourned no end in his later writings.

The triumph of this drama is that it seems utterly genuine and free of artifice, through its constant change of locations and years—intriguingly set before us in nonlinear fashion. We are transported back in time almost without being aware of it. The period detail is impeccable, enhanced by the understated performances by Josef Hader and his costars, including the gifted Barbara Sukowa as his ex-wife.

I was mesmerized by Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe. It was Austria’s official entry for the Academy Awards last year but is just now opening in New York and Los Angeles (at the Laemmle Royal). I came to it already interested in its subject, and with a particular interest in writers, but I can’t believe its audience is limited in any way. This is an exceptional piece of work, not to be missed.

If you want to learn more about the film and where it is playing, click HERE

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024