Love Comes Lately

Drama

  • Written by Jan Schütte, from three stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • Directed by Jan Schütte

I hesitate to describe Love Comes Lately above as a “drama,” since it isn’t particularly dramatic. On the other hand, it’s not very funny, either. Nor is it exciting, historical, romantic, or erotic. I think it’s supposed to be insightful.

A grand-niece of Isaac Bashevis Singer once told me that the great writer never really accepted the fact that women threw themselves at him because he was famous. He thought he was irresistible. Keep that story in mind when you see this movie–should you make the mistake of seeing it.

Writer/director Jan Schütte weaves together three Singer stories (“The Briefcase,” “Alone,” and “Old Love,” none of I’d read at the time I saw the film) by following the adventures of a short-story writer, who, in the course of the film, writes two short stories. Otto Tausig plays both the writer, Max, and the protagonists of the other stories. That‘s not much of a stretch; all three characters are old Jewish widowers raised in Europe but living in America. They’re also, of course, irresistible to women.

But there’s a difference. The two alter-egos–the men Max writes about–are both unattached and lonely. Something keeps them from connecting, emotionally and physically, with the women who so clearly want them. Max, on the other hand, has a steady and long-time girlfriend to cheat on. He doesn’t want to cheat on her, but when temptation arrives in the form of Barbara Hershey as a former student, how can he resist? When he gets into real trouble, caused by his encroaching senility, not his infidelities, the girlfriend (Rhea Perlman) no longer believes him.

Schütte managed to write and direct a handful of good scenes: An Amtrak conductor asking increasingly personal and bizarre questions. Max flirting with a young and pretty fan. Elizabeth Peña, as a crazy cleaning lady, practically raping one of Max’s alter-egos. But the scenes go nowhere and lead to nothing.

I’m not sure when the film is supposed to be set. Cars and trains look modern, and there’s a Viagra joke, but everything else seems to come from the mid-20th century. I can accept that an old writer, set in his ways, would still use a typewriter, but I have hard time accepting that a man who travels the lecture circuit wouldn’t carry a cell phone–or a credit card. Max gets into trouble that either of these conveniences would have alleviated.

Schütte probably wanted to make a period film but couldn’t get the budget. I’m sure he also wanted to make a good film. He didn’t.

This film screened at the 2008 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.