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Who would have thought that Paul Mazursky (An Unmarried Woman, Down and Out in Beverly Hills), defender of middle-class mediocrity, could have brought off this sensitive 1989 adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's slyly subversive and emotionally complex novel? It's an erotic love story and comedy-drama about Holocaust survivors living in New York City in 1949-'50, with Ron Silver as a ghostwriter for a rabbi (Alan King) who winds up married to three women at once—his original wife (Anjelica Huston), thought to have perished in a concentration camp; a non-Jewish former servant (Margaret Sophie Stein) who saved his life by hiding him in a hayloft and lives with him now in Coney Island; and a volatile Jewish woman (Lena Olin), who lives with her mother (Judith Malina) in the Bronx. Part of the fascination of this lovely and sexy movie, scripted by Roger L. Simon and Mazursky, is that one can never be sure where it's going, although it proceeds with disarming and impeccable logic. The period flavor is beautifully caught, and the performances—including an effective cameo by Mazursky himself as Masha's estranged first husband—are full of unexpected depths and surprises. All the actors are impressive, but it's the female leads who really shine.

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