‘The Tobacconist’ Review: Playing Dress-Up in 1930s Vienna


The coming-of-age costume drama “The Tobacconist” is set in Vienna during the rise of Nazism, leading up to the German occupation of Austria. But despite taking place during one of the most traumatic periods of modern civilization, the movie itself feels like little more than an amusing trifle, a chance to play dress up with some of history’s most famous figures.

The film follows Franz, a 17-year-old country boy sent by his mother to earn his own way in Vienna. The shy Franz (Simon Morzé) begins working at a tobacco shop owned by one of his mother’s former lovers, who provides cigars and sanctuary for leftists and Jewish people in the increasingly hostile city.

At first Franz doesn’t pay much attention to the politics that divide the streets, his head apparently too preoccupied with Bohemian crushes and trippy dreams to notice. In one of the film’s goofier plots, the lovelorn youth even seeks the counsel of the tobacco shop’s regular, Dr. Sigmund Freud, who is played here by the invaluable Bruno Ganz. Ganz makes for a wonderful Freud — a bit rueful, a tad preoccupied, a thoroughly convincing cigar smoker.

But the director Nikolaus Leytner uses Freud as window dressing, an excuse to add elaborate dream sequences to his cinematic bag of tricks. This is a pretty movie to be sure, with attractive cinematography, period costume and production design. But the film has no political or philosophical weight, and it is ultimately a movie that is as hard to take seriously as its somewhat dunderheaded protagonist.

The Tobacconist
Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes. Watch on Kino Marquee.

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