The Banality Of Violence?

Film festival includes Polanski working of ‘God of Carnage’ and Israeli piece on dysfunctional cops.
10/03/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

There is a tiny detail in “Carnage,” the new Roman Polanski film that opened this year’s New York Film Festival, something small but telling in the excellent production design by Dean Tavoularis. The film, which is almost a verbatim rendering of Jewish playwright Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” is a sardonic reflection on how well-intentioned and soi-disant sophisticated New Yorkers deal with the intrusion of violence on a small scale into their lives.

Jodie Foster, left, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet in Roman Polanski’s “Carnage.” Guy Ferrandis/Sony Pictures

One Hungarian Town’s Lost Jews

There Was Once’ is an unusually effective and moving Holocaust documentary.
09/19/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Eva Gregory recalls the moment when she realized that her family was in great peril. Then a young girl, she had accidentally dropped and shattered an entire set of expensive china. Horrified at what she had done, she braced for her mother’s explosion, but all her mother said was, “It’s all right. This doesn’t matter anymore.” Gregory, now an elderly woman, says, “That’s when I realized how bad the situation was.”

The elementary school in Kalosca, Hungary, in 1942.

The Last Jewish Olympiad Of Berlin

New film falls flat in its attempts to tell the story of Gretel Bergmann, the female high jumper pressured off the German team.
09/12/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Racism is a virulent form of insanity. It makes people do stupid, self-defeating things. Consider the case of the Nazis and their preparation for the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin. Among the best athletes preparing to compete was Gretel Bergmann, probably the finest female high jumper in the world. Only one small problem for the German track-and-field team: she was Jewish. So after the Nazis contrived to have her rejoin the team, apparently a response to American threats to boycott the Games, they did everything in their power to drive her off the team.

Members of the German track-and-field team with Nazi Party officials.

The Muslim Boy At The Yeshiva

In ‘David,’ a story of interfaith friendship manages to avoid feel-good clichés.
09/05/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Any time you have two schoolboys of different ethnicities thrown together in a drama, there is the danger of creating an after-school special, one of those facile, rather fatuous feel-good movies in which everyone comes to love one another, regardless of any social reality and regardless of the outside world. So when someone tells you that “David,” a new indie film from writer-directors Joel Fendelman and Patrick Daly is about a couple of 11-year-olds, one Muslim the other an Orthodox Jew, who become friends due to a misunderstanding, you might expect the worst.

Yoav (Binyomin Shtaynberger) and Daud (Muatasem Mishal) in Chinatown in a scene from “David.”

Refinancing Bernstein’s ‘The Debt’

Remake of Mossad movie, with Helen Mirren, is even better than the original.
08/30/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The difference between Assaf Bernstein’s 2007 film “The Debt” and the English-language remake that opens on Aug. 31 can be seen in the faces of the films’ respective female leads. In the Israeli original, Gila Almagor looks like a prosperous suburban matron, her face unlined except for an almost imperceptible scar on one cheek. By contrast, Helen Mirren sports an angry-looking L-shaped scar that draws her face taut, emphasizing the lined, almost craggy, and exhausted visage of someone with the weight of Jewish history on her shoulders.

Helen Mirren in "The Debt."

Documentary Moves Too Fast To Catch Madoff

‘Chasing Madoff’ doesn’t offer satisfactory explanations of his giant fraud.
08/25/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week



The line goes straight up at a 45-degree angle. It never makes a downturn, never changes its upward path. For anyone with a background in large-scale investment, it can only mean one thing: fraud.

Paper chase: Fraud-hunter Harry Markopolos in scene from "Chasing Madoff."

Being Serge Gainsbourg

Joann Sfar probes the Jewish identity of the French singer-songwriter-actor-provocateur, animatedly so.
08/22/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

It’s entirely appropriate that Joann Sfar’s first two feature films, “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” (which opens on Aug. 31) and “The Rabbi’s Cat” are all or partly animated.

Judging by his demeanor in a Midtown hotel last week, Sfar is very animated himself. From the moment he enters the room, he is bubbling with good humor and bonhomie, engaging with a photographer (“You have to make me look handsome, you know”), and just plain happy to be present.

French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, the subject of Joann Sfar's latest film, had a successful career despite a less-then-

‘Delirious Realism’ On Screen

Latinbeat festival highlights Jewish role in New Argentine Cinema.
08/02/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

This year’s Latinbeat Film Festival is a vivid reminder that Jewish filmmakers have been at the heart of the New Argentine Cinema for all of its roughly two decades of existence. Among the five new Argentine films playing the event, which opens on Aug. 10, are “Querida Voy a Comprar Cigarillos y Vuelvo,” directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, and “No Return,” directed by Miguel Cohan. You can add their names to a roster of festival veterans that already includes Martin Rejtman, Daniel Burman and Diego Lerman, among others.

The 12th annual Latinbeat Film Festival

Remembering Hitler, The Person

From the Fuhrer’s secretary to an uprising survivor, ‘Talking Head’ series features a range of voices from the Shoah.
07/26/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The film critic and historian Andrew Sarris is fond of saying that sometimes the most cinematic choice in the world is just to show two people in a room talking. When it comes to nonfiction film, despite the derisive phrase “talking heads documentary,” if the subject is interesting enough and the people talking are compelling, Sarris is absolutely right.

Face of a hero: Yehuda Lerner bears witness in Claude Lanzmann’s film about the uprising at Sobibor. New Yorker Films

One Complex Family, One Complex Country

Tomer Heymann looks closely at his own family in ‘The Queen Has No Crown,’ and captures a changing Israeli society too.
07/18/2011 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Early in Tomer Heymann’s new documentary, “The Queen Has No Crown,” the director’s twin brother, Erez, stares directly into the camera and says in a low, cold voice: “You’re extinction, that’s what you are. … Biologically, you’re useless.”

The director Tomer Heymann.
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