Film

Sleepless In Seattle

Documentary explores the manic life of
Steven Jesse Bernstein, father of ‘grunge’ and outsider artist.

12/07/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Steven Jesse Bernstein only lived 40 years, but to judge from the new documentary about him, “I Am Secretly an Important Man,” which opens on Dec. 15, his four decades were a whirlwind that encompassed enough writing, performing, sex, drugs and alcohol for a small army, and ended with an inexplicable but unsurprising suicide. That makes it all the more surprising that his advice to other poets, performance artists, musicians and, most of all, to himself was six simple words: “Just go and do your job.”

Bernstein, above, who eventually settled in Seattle, as pursued by demons.

‘Shoah’ At 25: ‘Nothing Will Be Forgotten’

Claude Lanzmann says his monumental film will stand ‘as an absolute barrier against forgetting.’

11/30/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Claude Lanzmann is in a bad mood. The director of “Shoah” is here to publicize the 25th anniversary re-release of that classic documentary and, whether he is jet-lagged or bored or subject to the cantankerousness that frequently befalls a man less than a week shy of his 85th birthday, he is in a bad mood and making no effort to conceal it.

The classic documentary “Shoah,” “does not age,” according to its director Claude Lanzmann, top.

The Banality Of ‘Eichmann’

New drama about the Nazi war criminal’s interrogation offers
little more than a melodramatic medley.

11/09/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

‘Eichmann,” a drama about the interrogation of the Nazi war criminal by an officer of the Israeli police after his capture in 1960, has been sitting on the shelf since 2007. Once you have seen the film it is not hard to understand why. What is harder to understand is why someone has actually chosen to release it.

Thomas Kretschmann as Adolf Eichmann.

Israel, In All Its Complexity

Now in its fourth year, the Other Israel Film Festival is switching gears
to consider Russian olim, Samaritan community and foreign workers.

11/02/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Film festival programmers frequently feel themselves caught in the middle between dueling imperatives. On the one hand, it is important to show the best films available within the scope of the festival. On the other hand, it is also important to have those films spark a dialogue, a conversation that will continue long after the sound of applause has faded away. When the film festival has an extra-cinematic agenda, that two-way tug-of-war becomes more complicated and sometimes even painful.

Other minorities: Scenes from “Lone Samaritan,” top, and “I’m Not Filipina.”

For A Kenyan Child, A Swedish-Jewish ‘Angel’

The power of generosity, and the connections it forges, plays out in ‘A Small Act.’

10/29/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

In Talmud Yerushalmi it is written, “I myself found fully grown carob trees in the world; as my fathers planted for me before I was born so do I plant for those who will come after me.”

There is a retired schoolteacher living in Stockholm, Hilde Back, who may never have read that sentence, although she is Jewish.

Hilde Back

Abraham’s Children: Alone, Together

‘Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam’ at New York Public Library:
The joy, and the complexity, of text.

10/26/2010
Staff Writer

One approaches “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam,” a new exhibit of religious texts at The New York Public Library, with caution. The animating idea might cause you to roll your eyes at its surface naiveté: at a time of heightened tensions among Muslims, Jews and Christians, the curators suggest we should emphasize what we all share in common.

Or should we?

An Italian marriage contract, or ketubah, from 1782, featuring images of the Abraham’s Binding of Isaac.

A Suicide In The Family

Mexican-Jewish director Mariana Chenillo
mines her grandparents’ story in ‘Nora’s Will.’

10/12/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Beginning writers and filmmakers are always told, “Write what you know.” While that is certainly sound advice, it should come with a warning label that reads, “May lead to hurt feelings among friends and family, screaming, yelling, possible bloody nose.” Mariana Chenillo, whose superb first feature film “Nora’s Will” opens on Friday, managed to avoid all of those pitfalls, but drawing on her family history for the film’s story was not without its nervous moments.

Fernando Luján as a cynical, weary man who has suffered with his wife’s suicide attempts in “Nora’s Will.”

The Filmmaker As Therapist

Jay Rosenblatt and the healing power of cinema.

10/05/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

 Jay Rosenblatt’s parents would probably have wanted him to be a doctor. After all, that’s what Jewish parents of baby boomers usually wanted for their kids in Sheepshead Bay. And Rosenblatt, born there in 1955, almost accommodated them. He was a mental health therapist for several years, working in hospitals and leading group therapy sessions. He was working towards his master’s degree in counseling when the lightning bolt hit him.

French Dialogue, ‘Navajo’ Subtitles

NY Film Fest’s Jewish-themed offerings are moody works by European old masters; just don’t expect to understand everything.

09/29/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

By a curious coincidence, the two new feature films in this year’s New York Film Festival that deal directly with Jewish themes are the work of two older masters of European cinema, neither of them Jewish: Manoel de Oliveira and Jean-Luc Godard. It would be hard to imagine two more dissimilar films than Oliveira’s “The Strange Case of Angelica” and Godard’s “Film Socialisme,” as even their titles suggest. Perhaps those differences are derived from the distance between their birth dates: 1908 in Oliveira’s case, 1930 in Godard’s.

Jean Luc Godard

The Doctors Of Evil

Robert Lifton discusses his interviews with the physicians who carried out the Nazi killing program.

09/28/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Early in the excellent new documentary “Robert Lifton: Nazi Doctors,” co-director Wolfgang Richter expresses his concern to Dr. Lifton about the sheer immensity of the Holocaust as a topic for study. Lifton, who is the very soul of calm and equanimity throughout the film, replies quietly: “One can only do so much ... One has to fail to comprehend the entire event. It’s elusive, but one can capture or illuminate some portion of it.”

Of the Nazi doctors he interviewed, Robert Lifton said: “They were looking for a kind of absolution.”
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