April 13, 2008
San Jose Camera Cinema Club

95 Minutes
Gil Kofman

Lukas works in an Orange County toll booth. He lives in a tiny apartment in Los Angeles. His life appears to be going nowhere. He visits his comatose mother in the hospital from time to time. He tries to interact with drivers with varying success. One day rednecks in a pickup (stereotype much?) throw a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf into his booth after paying the toll. He begins to read it, mostly out of boredom. A few days later, an old Jewish man notices the book while paying and goes ballistic. Never mind that all informed people should know what’s inside Hitler’s book, if only to try to come to terms with his madness. In this survivor’s head, the book itself should be burned. Lukas says he “doesn’t believe in burning books.” The Jew drives off angry.

Several days later the man appears again and hands Lukas a videotape without explanation. At home Lukas watches it (on his 13 inch screen) and it turns out to be an interview with the man about his experiences during the Holocaust.

It’s here that the movie goes crazy. Lukas, apparently finding nothing in his own life to suffer through, gets himself hired at the production company, begs to film other survivors, takes to wearing a yellow star, visits temple, purposely gets beat up by skinheads, and becomes some sort of expert on a Holocaust he’s far too young to have experienced. His life is so isolated and boring in the tollbooth that he needs the identity of a Holocaust survivor? Perhaps.

While caring for his mother (or is she?) in the hospital he meets and becomes smitten with Mira, a doctor who is a bit too young to be practicing and is the daughter of a survivor who has yet to have his story filmed. What she could possibly see in a psychotic toll booth worker is beyond me.

Our club director mentioned before the film started that this was the most unique telling yet of a topic we’ve all seen too many filmed examples of. This fact does not make it good, however. Some of the early scenes of his transformation are humorous. He keeps his kitchen kosher, he buys a prayer shawl while wearing a cross, he transforms his tollbooth into a mini-temple. But then it goes off the rails.

It’s unbelievable, clunky, and a bit racist. The equivalent might be a white guy putting on blackface to march on Washington demanding his slavery reparations.

8.1 IMDB


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Written by Michael W. Cummins