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Hotsy Nazi

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2000


    Aimee & Jaguar Maria Schrader and Juliane Kohler are in love, and in war, in "Aimee & Jaguar." (Zeitgeist Films)
In the Berlin of 1944, Felice Schragenheim is five times damned.

She's Jewish.

She's a communist.

She's a spy.

She's a lesbian.

She's having an affair with a German officer's wife.

But don't tell her that. She's having too much fun.

That's the gist of Max Farberbock's "Aimee & Jaguar" (the pet names by which Felice and her lover addressed each other), which may be the first lesbian romantic epic of World War II.

Older moviegoers will recognize all the high tropes of the heterosexual romantic war film: beautiful, impossibly doomed lovers clutching greedily against the background of blowing reeds and fast-running rivers; the sense of love seized briefly and fiercely in rare moments; the contrast between death and decadence everywhere; the overwhelming weight of doom (British bombers) overhanging; and the look.

The look? You know, the look. Bogart to Bergman in "Casablanca." Flynn to Sheridan in "Edge of Darkness." Tracy to Dunne in "A Guy Named Joe." A narrowing of the eyes, a widening of the pupils, a raising of the brows, a sense that sex can flow through air, through cigarette smoke and witty repartee, and penetrate so deep to the heart that the final expression in the flesh is strictly a formality. And in this movie, the look passes between Maria Schrader and Juliane Kohler, both of whom are brilliant.

"Aimee & Jaguar" is a surprisingly lush, well-produced film that re-creates the German capital under the threat of nightly raids and the Gestapo, where we are made to believe there flourished an arch, witty lesbian circle of sophisticates and cosmopolitans who enjoyed the very drama in the air. It made life somehow more fun.

The center of this group, Felice, is possibly more charismatic than any other young woman in Berlin, including Leni Riefenstahl. Farberbock really makes you feel her life force, her charm, her daring, her carnality. She's the "It" girl of Nazi Berlin, with a pageboy and arched brows, forever smoking, forever picking flecks of tobacco off her livid little tongue (I love it when they do that!).

By day she toils in the propaganda ministry where she is beloved (and much hit upon); by evening she slips the latest info to her communist contact, then parties hearty. Her girlfriend happens to be serving as a domestic to a beautiful German wife and mother of four who is busily having affairs to forget the madness around her. Felice sees a photo of Lilly (Kohler) and knows she must meet her, must have her.

Lilly, till then a practicing heterosexual with no knowledge of, or interest in, the other way, needs some convincing. But not much. And once she starts, she doesn't need Oprah to say: You go, girl.

She goes, and she's not coming back. The strength of the story, however, is that whereas so many wartime loves were mere hormonal explosions of the here, the now and the sense that you're going to die tomorrow, this one is not about flesh (well, actually it is, and how – the movie really sells the fury of female lovemaking) but about spirit.

The survivor loves her lover forever and ever. And it's the best kind of love: pure.

Aimee & Jaguar (112 minutes, at Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge) is rated R for carnality.


Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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