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IN HIDING WITH ANNE.

Byline: David Kronke TV Critic

ABC's miniseries ``Anne Frank'' plays like a Hollywood film that comes out in December, just in time for Oscar consideration: Since it tackles an important subject, it indulges in a rather stately pace, which is a euphemism for saying it's a good 50 percent longer than it needs to be.

But there's no denying its cumulative power. Hannah Taylor Gordon not only makes for a near-twin of the young martyr, but she also has a vastly expressive face that deftly captures her doppelganger's disparate moods. And with a supporting cast that includes Ben Kingsley as Anne's father, Otto; Brenda Blethyn as Auguste Van Pels, who also hid in the attic space with the Frank family, and Lili Taylor as Miep Gies, who aided in the family's concealment, ``Anne Frank'' hardly lacks compelling performances.

The story has become legend: Anne, her family and some acquaintances hid in the upper levels of an Amsterdam office building once owned by her father for 25 months before Nazis captured them and dispatched them to concentration camps. Before their discovery, Anne kept a journal which was published after her death (she perished of typhus mere weeks before British troops arrived at her camp; her diary inspirationally divines goodness in mankind despite the contrary evidence that surrounded her for years).

Since the miniseries is based on a biography by Austrian journalist Melissa Muller, who dug up some new information, and not on Anne's diaries, it has created some contentiousness with the Anne Frank Foundation run by her 75-year-old cousin. This is unfortunate because Muller's portrait of Anne allows her greater depth and even more empathy. Added material includes Anne's perceptions of her parents' loveless marriage, an innocent tryst while in hiding and her days in the concentration camp, all of which makes the story infinitely more moving.

Getting to that point, on the other hand, can be a bit of a haul. The petty bickering among those in hiding gets repetitive without ever giving a palpable feeling for the fact that the Franks and others subjected themselves to more than two years of selmprisonment. An hour, perhaps even two, could have been trimmed from the film and it still would have carried a power.

Still, the meticulousness of director Robert Dornhelm's storytelling (working from Kirk Ellis' script) no doubt contributes a cumulative effect of emotional devastation. In the film, Anne naturally isn't able to maintain her optimism for mankind in the prison camp, yet her book's message of hope has indisputably touched millions.

And as Miep Gies notes in Muller's book, ``Anne's life and death were her own individual fate, an individual fate that happened six million times over. ... Each victim had his or her own ideals and outlook on life; each victim occupied a unique, personal place in the world and in the hearts of his or her relatives or friends.'' For better and worse, storytellers will never be done with the Holocaust.

``ANNE FRANK''

What: Docudrama miniseries about the young Jewish girl hiding from Nazis whose diary inspired the world.

The stars: Hannah Taylor Gordon, Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn, Lili Taylor.

Where: ABC (Channel 7).

When: 9 tonight and Monday.

Our rating: Three stars

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

Hannah Taylor Gordon, who bears a striking resemblance to the historical figure she portrays, gives an added dimension to the ABC miniseries ``Anne Frank.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:May 20, 2001
Words:563
Previous Article:THAT `DORA' IS EVERYWHERE.
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