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Toronto Jewish Film Festival: “The Tobacconist”

“The Tobacconist” is a film about growing into manhood in an Austria that is about to be converted into a Nazi state. Young Franz (Simon Morze) leaves the Austrian countryside at 17 years of age to serve as an apprentice in a Viennese tobacco shop owned by Otto Trysnek (Johannes Krisch).

Otto is a lovable and slightly grouchy master but a WW1 veteran who has lost a leg in the process. He knows his customers and his tobacco well. In his opinion cigarettes are for anyone. Bad cigars are like horseshit and a very good cigar is like the world. And a steady customer is none other than Sigmund Freud (the Late Bruno Ganz)! Freud loves his Cuban cigars and takes a fancy to Franz and his rather rocky love life with the sparkly poor Bohemian Anezka (Emma Drogunova). His advice to Franz is priceless and Ganz makes Freud a most interesting and loveable character.

The next-door butcher denounces Otto as a “Jew Lover” as Hitler marches into Vienna and off Otto is carted to Gestapo headquarters where he dies in custody. Franz manages the tobacco shop until the Nazi’s shut it down.

Freud escapes to London and we don’t quite know what happens to Franz.

An enjoyable story about friendship, political morality and immorality, love and growing up. A terrible sense of dread keeps building as Austria slowly slips into the Nazi fold. Tremendous cinematography set design and wardrobes all in beautiful Vienna. So compelling it is a bit hard to return to 2019 as the movie ends.

To see more about the film and watch the trailer https://tjff.com/films/the-tobacconist/

This 109-minute 2018 film shows May 4 at 9:00 p.m. at Cineplex Empress Walk and May 6 at 615 p.m. at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. It is a Czech/German film and is directed by Nikolaus Leytner.

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