George Robinson

And The Band Played On

Documentary looks at the relationship between
the Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich.

04/13/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

For most ordinary people, daily life under a repressive dictatorship would not present too many more problems than daily life in a democracy. Even for many in the arts, the difference would be minimal, even if the dictatorship was maximal. In a strange way, that seems to be the unintended message of Enrique Sanchez Lansch’s excellent new documentary, “The Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich,” showing in the Museum of Modern Art’s annual “Kino!” series of new German films.

Protestors greet New York arrival of Berlin Philharmonic at the beginning of their 1955 U.S. tour.

A Veteran Klezmer Bassist Steps Out Front

04/08/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Jim Guttmann was there at the beginning.

In 1980 he ran into Hankus Netsky, who was looking for a bass player for a new venture. Guttmann, a bassist, was "working at Rosie's Bakery" in Cambridge, Mass., so when Netsky asked if he was interested in playing Jewish music, he quickly replied in the affirmative although, he admits today, "I didn't know what he was talking about." He found out soon enough; the band had a concert two weeks later, at which Guttmann played.

Jim Guttmann will be performing music from his first CD as a leader, "Bessarabian Breakdown," at Joe's Pub next week.

Chess Men: Pulling Out The Biopic Tropes

‘Who Do You Love,’ about the Jewish brothers behind
a legendary R&B label, is pleasant but inconsequential.

04/07/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Is there any genre of film that is as hidebound, as resistant to change as the biopic? Even the good ones stick pretty closely to formula: he/she had a terrible/wonderful childhood, learned a trade/craft/art, wrote/painted/fought many masterpieces and died happy/unfulfilled, but leaving the world a rich legacy of something or other. Add in a struggle for love or acceptance for his/her innovation or a battle with substance abuse and you’ve got a film about the Ritz Brothers or the inventor of Ritz Crackers.
 

Robert Randolph as Bo Diddley in the biopic about record producer Leonard Chess.

Tsuris In Tulsa

Tim Blake Nelson’s quirky version of
a hard-won tikkun olam on view in ‘Leaves of Grass.’

04/01/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Tim Blake Nelson’s new film has a title, “Leaves of Grass,” that has two meanings for its protagonists — it explicitly references both the Walt Whitman magnum opus and marijuana. That’s only appropriate for a film that is structured around doubling, doppelgangers, secret lives and identities.

Richard Dreyfuss in high dudgeon as the Oklahoma drug kingpin Pug Rothbaum.

Remembering The Forgotten

New Holocaust documentary
highlights the experiences of those
in lesser-known transports.

03/23/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Lukas Pribyl was looking for his grandfather. He knew the old man had been deported from Czechoslovakia in October 1939. He knew his grandfather had been taken to a camp whose name was all but forgotten, not one of the infamous extermination camps of Poland or the concentration camps for political prisoners like Dachau or Mauthausen. Just a small way station in the hell that was Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, a siding to oblivion where his grandfather died.
 

Young Polish Jews in happier times: An image from Lukas Pribyl’s “Forgotten Transports: To Poland.”

Stiller Waters Run Deep

In ‘Greenberg,’ Ben Stiller veers from the typical Jewish neurotic role.

03/23/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Roger Greenberg, the eponymous hero of Noah Baumbach’s new film, “Greenberg,” is a direct descendant of all those solipsistic, narcissistic, inconsiderate neurotics embodied by Woody Allen and, most recently, Larry David. At 40, he is a twitching bundle of nerves, barely suppressed anger and tightly held grudges going back to his college days. And he is unmistakably Jewish, although, as he dryly notes, “my mother is a Protestant, so I don’t even count.”

Character rather than caricature: Stiller as  Roger Goldberg.

Klezmer’s True North

Remembering the clarinetist who sparked the klez revival.

03/18/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Readers will no doubt recall a long-running advertising campaign for a fur company that posed famous women with the slogan, “What becomes a legend most?” Not, we grant, a campaign you’d be likely to see in these more animal-friendly days, but the question is a good one, “What becomes a legend most?”
 
If the legend is a musician, the answer is simple: play the music. Anything extra is nice, but nearly extraneous.    
 

Joel Rubin, right, pays tribute to Dave Tarras, left, in concert at Museum at Eldridge Street.

Portrait Of A Nazi Serial Killer

‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ is an example
of the mystery genre fulfilling the Jewish injunction to remember.

03/18/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

At its heart the mystery genre is about how people deal with past actions. Go all the way back to “Oedipus Rex” and you’ve got a man investigating a crime that happened decades before, and its consequences in the present. It’s a perfect setup for a people whose religion explicitly and repeatedly tells them to remember the past.
 

Niels Arden Oplev’s new “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has no Jewish characters but a Jewish theme.

New/Old French Lenses

A directorial debut and the latest from veteran Robert Guediguian highlight ‘Rendezvous with French Cinema’ series.

03/11/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

French film criticism graduates filmmakers the way Penn State used to turn out linebackers. The latest example is Axelle Ropert, one-time editor of “La Lettre du Cinema,” whose first feature, “The Wolberg Family,” is one of the pleasant surprises in this year’s “Rendezvous with French Cinema” series.

The French Family Wolberg: Axelle Ropert’s new film portrays a Jewish family with hidden secrets.

Singing Praises

12/10/2004
Special To The Jewish Week

He was the last of the great cantors of the Golden Age and, perhaps, the greatest. So it is fitting that in their efforts to revive classic chazanut, Cantors World’s latest concert is a tribute to Moshe Koussevitzky. His brilliant tenor voice was stilled by death on Aug. 23, 1966, but for former students and colleagues, it still rings in their ears.
“His voice was like a violin, but with the strength of a pipe organ,” says Cantor Benjamin Siller.

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