Gloomy Sunday

JayFlix folks strike again! "Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod" (1999) was recommended about a week ago and I quickly checked out the DVD from the Seattle library. According to the cover notes, the plot centers around a song, recorded by Billie Holliday among others, which, according to legend, had fateful effects on listeners.

We meet László, a restaurateur in Budapest in the thirties. László is played by Joachim Król who grows on you as the story proceeds. His lover is a waitress in his establishment; Ilona is played by the lovely Erika Marozsán. László hires a pianist to add a touch of elegance to his thriving business; the appealing András is played by Stefano Dionisi.

This story quickly evolves into a congenial menage a trois with all three participants at first hesitantly, then whole-heartedly, committed. The relationships are loving, respectful and a little wry; the men agree that having part of Ilona is better than having none at all. She is relieved that she doesn't have to choose. The pianist writes a song for her, Gloomy Sunday, which soon becomes an international hit. Even though he receives royalties, he continues to play at their restaurant.

Things quickly change when Nazi Germany gains traction in Europe. A young German who had rashly proposed marriage to Ilona years earlier, returns as a Nazi officer.

This film is involving, heartwarming, and a treat to the eye. All three leads are extremely busy Europeans: Król was born in Germany, Marozsán in Hungary, and Dionisi in Italy. The Nazi officer is played by Ben Becker ("The Harmonists" which I highly recommend!), who also has an extensive résumé.

Gloomy Sunday is requested throughout the movie: "Please play the song. You know, the famous one," makes you think of As Time Goes By from "Casablanca."

You'll love the twist at the end.