World War II Marathon: Aimée & Jaguar (1999)

Film #43 in the World War II Marathon is strange, but not that appealing, which is an odd combination!

Written By: Max Färberböck & Rona Munro
Directed By: Max Färberböck

The first time I tried to watch Aimée & Jaguar the DVD cut off on me about ten minutes into the film. I almost wish I had never procured a replacement copy from Netflix. Not getting that playable DVD would have saved me the frustration this movie brought out in me. It would have saved my girlfriend from seeing me getting frustrated at a movie, a sight she had never beheld previously. Let’s just say it isn’t the best thing to witness, there’s plenty of loud talking at the TV, begging the film to do something, anything better, and finally bargaining. Long after I have given up on a film I’m still bargaining with it, hoping that if I ask nicely enough and give up something in return it will magically turn into a movie I want to watch. I’m weird and a huge nerd, that much is true and what I just wrote only further confirms this, but I will not be deterred from letting you know how much Aimée & Jaguar frustrated me.

The premise is an interesting one, a gaggle of lesbian girls, lesbian Jewish girls at that, take a German housewife under their wing during World War II. Well, not actually, but that’s as close to a concise description of Aimée & Jaguar as I can supply. More to the point however, Aimée & Jaguar focuses on the relationship formed between one of those girls, Felice, and the housewife, Lily. Maybe there could have been a love story cultivated from those two women, but Aimée & Jaguar doesn’t bother to plant even the tiniest of seeds to grow that love.

I don’t think I’m being too harsh when I say I expect a love story to show me actual love between the two, or more, people who are supposed to be in love. Not for a second did I get the idea that Lily and Felice were in love. I needed to believe in them, to understand why Felice would care about a bored housewife and why Lily would throw away all of her suitors for someone as mendacious as Felice. Neither the writing or the direction bring their love alive or show the reasons for why they would love one another. Those involved with Aimée & Jaguar commit the sin of saying two characters are in love and expecting the audience to simply go along with it. That’s without even getting into how muddled the presentation of their love story actually is, it’s damn near impossible to understand the motivations of a given character at any moment, and Aimée & Jaguar is framed in such a way that understanding the motivations of its characters is essential.

I did begin this review by telling you how frustrated I was with Aimée & Jaguar, and while the way the love story was handled made the key contribution to my frustration it didn’t show up to the dance alone. I don’t ever ask for historical accuracy, I actually get annoyed when others do ask for historical accuracy. I know I shouldn’t, but the idea that movies should be or have some kind of responsibility to be historical documents irks me to no end. I do ask however that movies that are trying to be socially relevant feel sincere within their time and place. I had a hard time buying Aimée & Jaguar as a sincere love tale from the perspective of the 1940s in Germany. There are two key factors in this, first and foremost is the psychology that is attached to the homosexuality found in Aimée & Jaguar. A modern spin is put on homosexuality, the people behind Aimée & Jaguar clearly want the audience to look at this film through eyes colored by 1990s views on homosexuality and transpose them over the 1940s. Then there is the reaction of so many people to the lesbianism displayed by Felice and Lily. Person after person reacts nonchalantly to their relationship, creating the idea that in 1940s Germany people were fine and dandy with homosexuality. Historical accuracy need not apply, but please, for the love of Odin, be sincere to the time and place of your film.

I was hoping for more out of Aimée & Jaguar, I had this pegged as a film that could end up being a sleeper in the Marathon. Still, I would have been satisfied with a good movie period. That wasn’t what Aimée & Jaguar delivered, in the place of a good film it decided to become a frustrating exercise in hair pulling. Don’t let the great looking screenshot fool you, Aimée & Jaguar may be technically proficient, and even prone to moments that grab the viewer, but it is a maddeningly frustrating experience. When it comes to World War II films, you can easily take a pass on Aimée & Jaguar.




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