Who's in It:
Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz
The Basics: It's 1938, Nazi storm clouds are gathering over Europe, and Roth is a geriatric linguistics professor hit by lightning. When he comes to, he finds that he's getting both younger and smarter. Scientists are baffled, Hitler wants him studied, but all Roth wants to do is learn Chinese, turn the tide of World War II and find his lost love. He does, in the form of her reincarnated self, and she gets hit by lightning, too (they had more electrical storms back then), except she begins to age and can suddenly speak fluent Sanskrit. So, no, it's not based on a true story or anything.
What's the Deal? You have to kind of give a pass to a movie like this even if you're baffled by it and even if ultimately it's not that good. It's all really personal stuff for director Francis Ford Coppola, who's gone on record as feeling a direct kinship with the reverse-aging supergenius protagonist (it's all based on a novella by religion historian Mircea Eliade), even if saying you identify with the smartest fictional character ever seems a touch egotistical. Anyway, it's not as bonkers as Southland Tales it makes too much narrative sense for that. It's just likeably loopy and full of old-fashioned visual touches. It thinks it's deeper than it is, but you sort of end up forgiving that, too.
Sexy Lingerie of the Third Reich: Those Nazis are always using crazy tricks to get to people. Here they send a tempting spy lady to seduce Roth. If he notices the swastikas embroidered onto her garter belt, he doesn't seem to mind that much. And it's little details like this that keep you watching, even when you're thinking you've had it with the crazy plot.
Suddenly, and Without Warning, There's Matt Damon: An uncredited cameo by Damon as an American agent who wants to help Roth comes and goes as quickly as good sense. For a second you think, "OK, Bourne's here to make this less nutty and more action-packed." But then you stop thinking that, and it goes on down its own strange path.
Double Feature It With: Jack, Coppola's bizarre Robin Williams movie. You know, it's the one where he played a really hairy 10-year-old.