Film

Blame It On Rio

Not even a beautiful Mossad agent can
save the Bondian romp, ‘Lost in Rio.’

05/04/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Life was so much simpler in 1967. For a brief moment, everyone loved Israel, the plucky little country that fended off attacks from all its much larger, more powerful neighbors. With the U.S. involved in an unpopular war in Vietnam, it was comfortable for progressives to view the Israelis as a model for the Third World, a nation too tough to take crap from the big boys.

No 007: Jean Dujardin and Louise Monot in scene from “OSS 117 — Lost in Rio.”

Up Against The Wall

Tribeca Festival documentary aptly depicts all sides in a West Bank town’s peaceful struggle to reroute Israel’s security fence.

04/20/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

The immense capacity of the human animal for pointless violence that runs counter to its best interests never ceases to amaze. Or it just never ceases.

Consider the history of an independent modern India. Conceived and brought to life by the work of one of the world’s greatest advocates of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi, it is a nation that has known terrible outbursts of sectarian violence within and brutal combat without for its entire history. Could it be possible, however, to reverse this process?

A scene from "Budrus"

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.

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.

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.
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