Taking memories at tollbooth

Posted: April 13, 2007

Lukas, a toll collector, doesn't have a life. So, he collects the lives of those who drive past his tollbooth in California's Laguna Hills.

A skinhead tosses him a copy of Mein Kampf and Lukas is immediately absorbed by Hitler's memoir. A Holocaust survivor sees him reading the Nazi bible and tosses him a videotape of his concentration-camp ordeal. Lukas (an intense Mark Webber) thirstily drinks it in.

Is Lukas a sponge soaking up the lives of others? A blank slate onto which people inscribe their stories? A youth who immerses himself in others' troubles so he does not have to deal with his own?

In this feature debut of writer/director Gil Kofman, all these readings are possible, but unexplored. In an obvious homage to Taxi Driver (voice-over narration, moody atmosphere), Kofman begins a portrait of alienation that's left unfinished.

The deeply felt performances from Webber and Jerry Adler (as a Holocaust survivor who spills his pain to the young man) overwhelm the film about a young man whose way of connecting to others is to mirror them.

The Memory Thief **1/2 (out of four stars)

Written and directed by Gil Kofman. With Mark Webber, Rachel Miner and Jerry Adler.

Running time: 1 hour, 34 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (mature themes, profanity, epithets)

Playing at: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 12:15 p.m. Sunday at Prince Music Theater.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews. com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/.

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