Two Takes On Mixed-Mood Comedies

‘Let My People Go!’ and ‘My Best Enemy.’

Special to the Jewish Week

It could be argued that comedy is the most utterly subjective of film genres. A half-bright filmmaker can make an audience cry without much effort.

Ruben (Nicolas Maury), the pride of the Finnish postal service, in "Let My People Go!"

Light And Dark At N.Y. Jewish Film Fest

Week 2 offerings move from the Shoah to an Israeli counter-terrorism force to Joe Papp and ‘Hava Nagila.’

Special to the Jewish Week

If the first week of the New York Jewish Film Festival was largely about music, both as reality and metaphor, the second is a spectrum that ranges from dark to light, 

Scenes from  “Numbered,” .

Svigals, Lerner Team Up On Score For Silent Film

Mix of klezmer and modernism as accompaniment to ‘The Yellow Ticket.’

Special To The Jewish Week

Alicia Svigals, one of the great klezmer violinists working today, had written music for feature films and documentaries before, so she thought she knew what she was getting into when someone suggested she score a silent film. “The Yellow Ticket” is a 1918 German-made drama, restored under the auspices of the Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Silent no more: Pola Negri and Guido Herzfeld in the 1918 “The Yellow Ticket.”  Courtesy of Deutsches Filminstitut

Common Chords At N.Y. Jewish Film Festival

A number of the offerings, from “AKA Doc Pomus” to “Kol Nidre,” pivot on music.

Special to the Jewish Week

Dan Edelstyn and his wife, Hillary Powell, with their vodka in “How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire.”  Tim Sullivan

From The Shtetl To The Great White Way

PBS documentary traces the Jewish underpinnings of the Broadway musical.

Special To The Jewish Week

In his best-selling book, “The Gifts of the Jews,” Thomas Cahill claims that monotheism, the Western system of justice and the idea of democracy are all Jewish inventions.

Scene from “West Side Story” .

The Lubitsch-Wilder Connection

As ‘Ninotchka’ gets a weeklong run, considering the two great comedy directors.

Special to the Jewish Week

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that Billy Wilder worshipped Ernst Lubitsch. On the wall in Wilder’s office years after Lubitsch’s death hung a sign that read, “What would Lubitsch do?” Wilder’s best work as a comedy director is indebted to Lubitsch’s visual inventiveness and lightness of touch. The verbal fireworks, however, were Wilder’s own.

Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas in "Ninotchka."

The Magnificent Seven (Films, That Is)

Our film critic sizes up the year in Jewish-themed cinema.

Special to the Jewish Week

Contrary to all the rather tedious doomsayers, film is not dead.

The Rabbi's Cat

Kipa Cat

‘The Rabbi’s Cat’ brings back a long-missed dauntless energy to animated film.

Special To The Jewish Week

What has been missing from the tidal wave of animated features released theatrically in the past decade is the anarchic wit of the great Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. Somehow it is less than surprising that one of the rare examples of that kind of manic energy and total disregard for propriety comes from outside the U.S., but Joann Sfar’s “The Rabbi’s Cat” is precisely the kind of film that our homegrown animation directors seem incapable of making now.

Scene from “The Rabbi’s Cat,” at the International Children’s Film Festival.

A Lens On Alt-Jews

‘Punk Jews’ profiles some out-of-the-box folks asserting their Jewish unique identities.

Special to the Jewish Week

“Punk Jews,” the new documentary having its world premiere at the JCC in Manhattan on Dec. 11, has the peculiar feel of a version of “60 Minutes” concocted by the demented offspring of some MTV producer and a wonder-working chasidic mystic. Only an hour long, the film is the work of a team of Emmy Award-winners, led by director Jesse Zook Mann, and it definitely looks like a pilot for an expansive TV news magazine-type show, although it is hard to imagine what audience demographic it would attract.

“Punk Jews” producer Evan Kleinman filming Y-Love, the African-American-Jewish hip hop artist.

About Wagner, Fry Buries His Ears In The Sand

In his ‘Wagner & Me’, the British actor seems tone deaf to the German composer’s anti-Semitism.

Special To The Jewish Week

If they recognize his name, most Americans will think of Stephen Fry as the brilliant comic actor who has frequently paired with Hugh Laurie (of “House” fame), or the Anglo-Jewish polymath whose BBC excursions have covered everything from the mysteries of the English language to the peculiarities of American society. He’s a novelist and a stage actor of note. That Fry is Jewish and also a great lover of the music of Richard Wagner seems a contradiction; and it is the subject of a new film, “Wagner & Me,” which opens on Dec. 7.

Stephen Fry listens to a performance of Wagner’s “Träume,” at the Villa Wesendonck in Zurich. Photos courtesy of  Wavelength Fil
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