Social depravity and a Fascist dictator both thrive in Europe. The lesson? Never leave America
THE SOUND AND THE FÜHRER
Max (December 27)
Australian actor Noah Taylor (best known as the young incarnation of pianist David Helfgott in Shine) takes verisimilitude to anew level in writer/director Menno Meyjes' Max, in which he plays the frustrated Austrian painter who would become one of history'smost evil figures. Taylor plays Adolf Hitler, a 29-year-old veteran of the Great War who's only just becoming aware of hisvenomous impulses; John Cusack is a fictitious art dealer who witnesses the awakening of young Hitler's monstrosity. Far fromplaying the not-yet-great dictator as a Chaplin-esque caricature, Taylor fully understood the responsibility of hisrole. "People asked, 'Are you afraid of making him human?'" he says. "[I thought] that's too glib a use of the word human--as if itimplies that all things human are good. Unfortunately, a lot of what is human is a very terrible thing." Luckily for the actor, hisnext project is Tomb Raider 2. "It's a touch lighter," says Taylor, who's returning as Angelina Jolie's geeky sidekick, Bryce. "Idon't think you can leap from one heavy piece to another without doing yourself serious mental damage."
PAPER OR PLASTIC BAGGAGE?
Morvern Callar (December 20)
After earning an Oscar nomination for playing a mute in Sweet and Lowdown and mumbling her way through Minority Report as thebarely intelligible pre-cog Agatha, Samantha Morton finally gets an opportunity to speak out in Morvern Callar. A little. "Morvernis very still," the 25-year-old London resident says of her title character. Based on Alan Warner's cult novel, director LynneRamsay's film tells the morbidly comic tale of a Scottish checkout clerk whose boyfriend kills himself, leaving behind a copy ofhis unpublished novel. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, our heroine promptly shops the manuscript around as her own, findingplenty of time for raves and self-discovery. Like Morvern's wandering protagonist, Morton is a bit of an intrepid explorer herself,using Hollywood as a refuge from the British press. "I just don't like the premieres and wearing the dress and getting a trainer andmanufacturing yourself," she says. "You can't be like, 'Oh my God, my tummy and my butt have to look like this.' You're going to be30 and a total neurotic."