Enemies, A Love Story (1989): Mazursky’s Touching Holocaust Serio-Comedy

Arguably Paul Mazursky’s last successful picture, “Enemies: A Love Story,” adapted from a novel by the Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer (The Yiddish title is Sonim, di Geshichte fun a Liebe)

Set in New York City in 1949, this serio comedy centeron a survivor of the Holocaust, Herman Broder, well played by Ron Silver, and the multiple women in his life, played with panache by Anjelica Huston and Lena Olin.

 

Believing that that his wife his dead, Silver married the woman who had sheltered him, while hiding from the Nazis in WWII Poland.  Throughout the war he survived hidden in a hayloft, taken care of by his gentile Polish servant, Yadwiga, whom he later takes as his wife in America.

Upon arrival in the new land, he begins a  he has a passionate affair with another Holocaust survivor, Masha (the sexy Lena Olin), who becomes his mistress.  Meanwhile, he poses as a traveling book-salesman despite the fact he is a ghost writer for a corrupt rabbi.  

Despite these complications, Herman’s life seems to be in a peculiar state of balance–until his presumably dead wife shows up at his door alive.

He wanders about New York with a constant paranoia and perpetual desperation, made more complicated when his first wife from Poland, Tamara, who was thought to have been killed in the Holocaust along with their two children, comes to New York.

As co-writer and helmer, Mazursky navigates the multi-nuanced tale with the right proportion of farcical humor, healthy eroticism and sentimental pathos, when the occasion calls for it.

The film was nominated for three Oscar Awards, including two in the Best Supporting Actress category for Anjelica Huston and Lena Olin and Best Adapted Screenplay for Roger L. Simon and Paul Mazursky.

 

Oscar Nominations: 3

 

Screenplay (Adapted): Roger L. Simon and Paul Mazursky

Supporting Actress: Anjelica Huston

Supporting Actress: Lena Olin

Oscar Awards: None

 

Oscar Context:

 

The most nominated film in 1989, “Driving Miss Daisy” received four Oscars out of its nine nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and Best Actress.  The biggest scandal was that the film’s director, Bruce Beresford, failed to receive recognition from his peers in the Directors Branch.   The writing award went to Alfred Uhry for adapting his play to the screen in “Driving Miss Daisy.”

 

The other Best Picture nominees represented a mixed bag in genre and quality: Oliver Stone’s Vietnam drama “Born on the Fourth of July” with 8 nominations and  2 Oscars, “My Left Foot” with 5, “Dead Poets Society” with 4, and “Field of Dreams” with 3.

 

The New York Film Critics Circle conferred on Mazursky the Best Director and on Lena Olin Best Supporting Actress.  However, the winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar was Brenda Fricker for Jim Sheridan’s “My Left Foot.”

Though one of Mazursky’s best reviewed films, “Enemies, A Love Story” was not successful at the box-office, grossing only $7.76 million.

Cast

Ron Silver as Herman Broder

Anjelica Huston as Tamara Broder

Lena Olin as Masha

Margaret Sophie Stein as Yadwiga

Alan King as Rabbi Lembeck

Judith Malina as Masha’s mother

Elya Baskin as Yasha Kobik

Paul Mazursky as Leon Tortshiner

Phil Leeds as Pesheles

Rita Karin as Mrs. Schreier

Zypora Spaisman as Sheva Haddas