The Arts

Isaac Hertz’s ‘Life Is Strange.’

A new film offers a child’s-eye view of pre-Shoah Jewish life.

01/23/2014
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The red flags probably should go up during the opening credits to “Life Is Strange,” a new documentary opening on Jan. 24. Anytime a movie opens with a voiceover in which the director asks, “I’m not a filmmaker, why did I make this film,” an audience can be forgiven if it, in turn, asks why it is watching it.

The poster for “Life Is Strange.” Lookback Productions

Film As Community Building In Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Israel Film Festival at 10.

01/22/2014
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Most film festivals exist to showcase outstanding works of cinematic art, frequently with a specific theme or to highlight a region or national cinema. The Brooklyn Israel Film Festival would, at first glance, appear to be more of the same. But Hedda Kafka, who has been curating the program for all 10 years of its existence, has something else in mind, a mission that goes beyond the festival’s programming focus.

Hedda Kafka, curator of the Brooklyn Israel Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th year this week.

What’s In A Portrait?

01/21/2014
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Nowadays, people constantly snap photos of themselves — known as “selfies” — and post them casually on the Internet. But in earlier periods of history, portraits were carefully constructed, enduring expressions of a sitter’s self-image and sense of importance in society. In Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy, “The Portrait,” the 18th-century rendering of a Jewish ancestor leads to squabbling among his descendants over the ownership of the valuable painting. The play runs through this weekend at Theatre 54 in Midtown.

Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy “The Portrait”  ownership of a family portrait. Doug Nobiletti

Krakauer Goes To The Movies

Month-long series has the clarinetist exploring tunes from films with Jewish content.

01/21/2014
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The noted clarinetist David Krakauer has moved through enough genres to last several musical lifetimes. In the past 25 years he has played everything from klezmer (where he was one of the leaders of the klez revival) to classical, jazz, folk and funk.

A new lens on his work: Krakauer arranges tunes from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Photo courtesy GMD3

Precariously Balanced

Naomi Leshem’s photographs penetrate life’s in-between moments.

01/21/2014
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A young woman named Moria looks up at the sun while sitting on a thin wire cable. She finds her balance by keeping one leg straight, the other bent at almost a right angle. Her shadow is right beneath her. Naomi Leshem’s photograph was taken in Yakum Park in Israel as part of a series called “Centered,” now on view at the Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea.

Woman on wire: This photograph is part of Leshem’s series called “Centered.”

'Sturgeon Queens' To Screen

New documentary details life of appetizing store Russ & Daughters.

01/17/2014
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“Sturgeon Queens,” a new documentary set to screen at festivals and to air on PBS stations in the New York area, traces the vibrant life of Russ & Daughters, the iconic cured-fish palace that opened on New York’s Lower East Side in 1914. This year, the still-thriving store celebrates its 100th anniversary, and its owners, fourth-generation Russes, plan to open a 65-seat café nearby. It’s a big year for a celebrated Jewish business that has weathered many changes in the neighborhood’s cultural landscape.

Founder Joel Russ with his three daughters. Photo courtesy the Russ Family

Spiegelman, In Words, Images And Music

Glimpses into the graphic novelist’s unique world where pictures and text ‘Co-Mix.’

01/15/2014
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As a young boy, Art Spiegelman would copy cartoon strips about Little Lulu and Donald Duck. By 14, he was illustrating his own stories with homemade comics, and at 15 he created and distributed his own satire magazine, Blasé. The magazine had edge; a young woman on the cover of a 1964 edition is asked, “What’s a nice girl like you doing on a cover like this?”

“Self-Portrait with Maus Mask,” 1989. Image courtesy the artist and The Wylie Agency

‘Natan’ Recounts Lost Piece Of French Film History

Irish documentary tells little-known story of producer and studio head targeted first by the Nazis, then by an American film professor.

01/15/2014
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How many times can you murder a man? The Nazis, aided by the French government, killed Bernard Natan in Auschwitz in 1943. It took an American professor of film studies to kill him the second time by impugning his legacy as a film producer and studio head.

Bernard Natan in scene from David Cairns and Paul Duane’s “Natan.” Photo courtesy Paul Duane

Carole King Musical Doesn’t Sing

Despite a strong performance from Jessie Mueller, ‘Beautiful’ never quite coheres.

01/14/2014
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If ever pop music could be said to define a generation, it was in the 1960s, a time of social ferment set to the beat and rhythm of youth. Carole King, working with her husband Gerry Goffin, helped to set the tone for that era with her catchy tunes about the elusiveness and slipperiness of love. In “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which opened last Sunday at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, King’s music shines through the decades. But the musical itself, which stars Jessie Mueller in a scintillating performance as the composer, never quite coheres into a satisfying show.

Jessie Mueller as Carole King and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin in “Beautiful.” Joan Marcus

Closing With A Bang At Annual Jewish Film Festival

Strong final-week offerings include a meditation on Jews and Poles, Amos Gitai’s latest and a documentary on Jews living under the Shah

01/14/2014
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Note: This is the third of three articles on this year’s N.Y. Jewish Film Festival.

They truly saved the best for last. In a strong lineup of new films and restorations, this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival closes with three of its very strongest offerings — a beautiful, mysterious and austere meditation on the barbed relationship between Jews and Poles, Amos Gitai’s most accessible film in years, and a smart documentary on a little-known aspect of Israeli-Iranian relations.

Yuval Scharf in Amos Gitai’s “Ana Arabia.”
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