July 2, 2019  (Web Review)

Vitch

(2019) 78 min. DVD: $129: public libraries; $295 w/PPR: colleges & universities. Seventh Art Releasing (www.7thart.com).

Filmmaker Sigal Bujman’s documentary tells the fascinating story of Eddie Vitch (1903-1986), a Polish Jew, born Ignace Levkovitch, who came to the United States in 1931 and won fame as a caricaturist of the stars at Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant, only to be deported back to Europe in 1934, where he became a popular comic mime in Parisian variety shows under his stage name. When prominent Nazi officials saw Vitch on stage after their 1940 takeover of France, they brought him to Germany, where he performed in important venues throughout the war, even as most of his family was deported or killed in the death camps. It is uncertain whether the authorities failed to identify him as a Jew or chose to ignore the fact because of his popularity, or if he was a collaborator or a clever man who pulled the wool over their eyes. Bujman draws on archival footage and stills, home movies, and a rare interview with Vitch late in his life (in which he recalls performing for Hermann Göring) to depict this extraordinary life. But she approaches the story from the perspective of Vitch’s daughters, who in uncovering the facts of their father’s experience find relatives they never knew, some seeing Vitch as a man who did what he had to do in desperate circumstances, while others argue that by failing to search for them after the war he showed his true colors. An intriguing study of an enigmatic figure, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)