25 April 2002 | oldsheriff
Excellent, in-depth docu about Germany's greatest singing group ever
I do not know if this documentary is available on video, or even DVD - not to mention outside Germany. But for those of us who are entirely thrilled by the Comedian Harmonists ("the German Revellers", as they were originally billed in the 1920s), the film is an indispensable experience.
When it was made in 1976, four of the original members of the group were still alive to tell their story: bass Robert Biberti, spending a well-off pensioner's life in Berlin; pianist Erwin Bootz, making his living as a musician for TV productions etc.; baritone Roman Cycowski, then a cantor at a San Francisco synagogue and the last member of the group to die (in the late 1990s); and tenor Ari Leschnikoff, living in poverty in a run-down tenement in his native Sofia, Bulgaria. They, as well as close relatives and friends of the groups other two members, founder Harry Frommermann and Erich A. Collin, give a first-hand account of the origin, the rise and the demise of the group, including the bickering, rivalries and jealousies - and the nasty post-war litigation - among them.
Viewers may find that though the restrictions put on the group by the Nazis (Frommermann, Collin and Cycowski were Jewish - though Collin only by Nazi definition) were certainly the main cause for their breakup, their clash of complex personalities (especially between genius arranger Frommermann and Biberti, who comes across as rather egocentric) might ultimately have led to the same result.
What's left of them is some of the finest popular music ever produced, music which can still cheer you up or make you sad today just like it could 70 years ago. Through this documentary, we learn more about the personalities behind the music than we may ever know about most of today's pop stars. Even if the Harmonists' music is not to your liking, the history lesson that is taught by their biographies is worth watching.