Lynne Sachs (b. 1961)
The Last Happy Day (2009)
37 min., 16mm and video, 2009
The Last Happy Day is a half-hour experimental documentary portrait of Sandor Lenard, a distant cousin of filmmaker Lynne Sachs and a Hungarian medical doctor. Lenard was a writer with a Jewish background who fled the Nazis. During the war, the US Army Graves Registration Service hired Lenard to reconstruct the bones — small and large — of dead American soldiers. Eventually Sandor found himself in remotest Brazil where he embarked on the translation of “Winnie the Pooh” into Latin, an eccentric task which catapulted him to brief world-wide fame. Perhaps it is our culture’s emphasis on genealogy that pushes Sachs to pursue a narrative nurtured by the “ties of blood”, a portrait of a cousin. Ever since she discovered as a teenager that this branch of her family had stayed in Europe throughout WWII, she has been unable to stop wondering about Sandor’s life as an artist and an exile. Sachs’ essay film, which resonates as an anti-war meditation, is composed of excerpts of her cousin’s letters to the family, abstracted war imagery, home movies of children at a birthday party, and interviews.
“A fascinating, unconventional approach to a Holocaust-related story … a frequently charming work that makes no effort to disguise an underlying melancholy.” - The Jewish Week
“Exquisite…Sachs reclaims (Lenard’s) dignity and purpose using letters, newsreel footage, and recreations of his environment as if to channel him back from the past.” - Chicago Filmmakers
Premiere: New York Film Festival “View from the Avant-Garde” 2009, Black Maria Film Festival Director’s Choice Award; SF Cinematheque; Pacific Film Archive; Hungarian Nat’l TV Broadcast; One of the 10 Best Undistributed Film of 2009 (Film Comment)