A grandfather suffering through his “last party” at his home takes a break from posing for family photos to hunt down the missing face from the group shot.
It’s his granddaughter, who could not be more than seven or eight.
She’s a bit of a grump, like him, and she’s holding out. Next thing he knows, he’s haggling with a funny brat who wants money for an iPhone. She plays hardball. He lowballs her. And when he relents, he taunts her that he would have given in at her original price.
She smirks that she lied about the price and will have money to burn, AND a phone. Old Man Burzstein’s face flushes.
“This is why you’re the FAVORITE!”
Thus begins “The Last Suit,” a road picture comedy about…The Holocaust. It’s an adorable Argentinian odyssey about a survivor who makes his way to the land of his birth to repay a debt.
Exacting revenge? Maybe. Honoring someone he lost? He will not say.
He’s a tailor, and the one thing he takes from his house as he abandons it to his badgering daughters is his “last suit,” and it’s not for him.
Miguel Ángel Solá plays Abraham Burzstein in “El último traje,” a stubborn old man who raised a large family in Argentina, but who emigrated from Poland. Only he won’t say the it, and his daughters grew up knowing of it as “the dirty word,” (“Polonia” in Spanish).
That makes this secret journey — he is 88, has a bum leg his doctors want to amputate and doesn’t tell his family what he’s up to — extra tricky.
An off-the-books “travel agent” (an actress-granddaughter of the agent he once used, nagged backstage at a theater to make his online reservations) helps him out. No, there’s no “discount” for knowing granddad.
Say this for writer-director Pablo Solarz. He’s not shy about assorted Jewish stereotypes. As Abraham flies to Madrid, overnights in a hostel and makes his way overland, haggling is a funny, necessary part of the process.
So is bickering — with the rude young man (Martín Piroyansky) sitting next to him whose ear he wants to talk off on the plane (a trick), with the hostel keeper and sometime Spanish chanteuse (fiery and sarcastic Ángela Molina) who gives as good as she gets in the haggling department, with the helpful but persistent German woman (Julia Beerhold) who wants to help him “not touch one meter” of German soil on his quest.
The young French ticket agent may have forgotten “what happened here a long time ago,” may not know what that number tattoo on Abraham’s arm signifies. German Ingrid hasn’t. There’s a bargain struck even in her assistance to this very old man on a mission — help, for his story.
Solarz serves up flashbacks to Abraham’s youth in Lodz, Jewish community dances. And we see Abraham upon his release from a death camp, the origins of the bum leg he’s named “Tzures,” and see 1945 visions of the man “who is expecting me” even though “we haven’t kept in touch.”
The screenplay — in Spanish, Yiddish, French, German and Polish with English subtitles — gives us a fresh take on the hell of growing old, the indignities, humiliations of a body that keeps letting you down, the memories you’ve piled up that you cannot shake.
Solá — “I Know Who You Are” is his best-known film in the English speaking world — gives Abraham a biting whimsy, with little touches of folksy as he imparts the wisdom of old age. We elderly, he says, “face the time we have left to live” and “doesn’t want to be a burden” even as he’s being a burden.
He’s amusingly annoying as Solarz concocts the work-arounds that a man who refuses to say “Poland” (“Polonia”) out loud tries to travel there, and without seeing, setting foot in or interacting with Germany or Germans. Abraham is going to get his way, no matter what.
Which makes “The Last Suit” a hopeful film, sweet at its core, even in the flashes of horror that built the bitterness Abraham has carried with him all life
As horrific as the subtext is, Solarz finds universal humor in a cranky old man on this one last quest. But he doesn’t let Abraham, assorted bystanders or the audience off the hook either.
Try and not be moved by the finale. That’s as futile as fighting this old man on his one-way trip into a past the world can “never forget.”
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Miguel Ángel Solá, Ángela Molina, Martín Piroyansky
Credits:Written and directed by Pablo Solarz. An Outsider release.
Running time: 1:31