The Arts

Lanzmann Loses His Distance

‘Shoah’ director’s latest, ‘Last of the Unjust,’ is an ethical lapse, says a longtime champion of his work.

02/18/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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To understand how difficult it is to write this column, you have to consider my history with Claude Lanzmann. Of course, I have seen every one of his films. I have watched “Shoah” — nearly 10 hours long — five times. I have interviewed Lanzmann face to face on four separate occasions. That may not sound like a lot but it’s the longest episodic “relationship” I’ve had with a foreign filmmaker. And I have written about his work enthusiastically more times than I can count, at least a dozen times in 20 years for Jewish Week and that many again elsewhere.

Lanzmann at train station outside of Terezin. Courtesy of Synecdoche/Le Pacte

The Real Fifth Beatle

Graphic novel tells graphic tale of drugs, homosexuality in the Swinging Sixties and Brit Brian Epstein, the man behind the band.

02/14/2014
Jewish Week Online Columnist
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The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story chronicles in surrealist, comic-book-style fashion the rise and fall of one of the most successful music managers of all time. It is the untold tale of Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ Jewish, homosexual manager, who guided the group during their atmospheric rise to fame and whose vision changed the world. “If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian,” Paul McCartney famously stated in a 1999 BBC interview.

Brian Epstein

Voice Lessons

02/11/2014
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In one of the most shameful episodes in the history of our hemisphere, the S.S. St. Louis, carrying 937 refugees from the Holocaust, was turned away in 1939 from Cuba, the United States and Canada. Now, 75 years later, comes Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz’s “Sotto Voce,” a play in which a young Cuban Jew strikes up a long-distance friendship with a female German novelist whose Jewish lover was a doomed passenger on the ship. It opens this weekend in the East Village. Cruz, who is not Jewish, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his play, “Anna in the Tropics.”

Andhy Mendez and Franca Sofia Barchiesi in Nilo Cruz’s “Sotto Voce,” about the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis.  Jonathan Slaff

Still Up And At It: One Of The Original 'Monuments Men'

In wake of new movie, Harry Ettlinger, 88, joins with his successors in intensified push to recover stolen art.

02/11/2014
Staff Writer
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Harry Ettlinger, the only survivor of the original handful of Monuments Men assigned by the U.S. army in 1943 to hunt for Nazi-looted artwork and help return it to its owners, is once again helping families reunite with their prized art collections.

Henry Ettlinger, left, one of the Monument Men, with attorney Mel Urbach. Courtesy of Mel Urbach

Yiddish Theater’s Latest Fusion

Target Margin’s Winter Lab series draws from some unusual sources for its experimental fare.

02/11/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Born in Eastern Europe and raised to its full height on the Lower East Side, the Yiddish theater was always a mongrel art, based on the recycling of serious European dramas, jaunty operettas, helter-skelter variety shows and other high- and lowbrow entertainment. Now, wrapping up a two-year odyssey into Yiddish theater, the Target Margin Theater Company presents a series of new theatrical works that are based on unusual sources ranging from the sweatshop poetry of Celia Dropkin to the comedy of Lenny Bruce. The cutting-edge series, called the Winter Lab, kicks off this week on the Lower East Side.

Target Margin’s 2012 production of “Outside/In,” which explored the political concerns of early 20th-century Yiddish poets.

‘Monuments Men’ Reignites Debate

Star-studded film steers clear of furor surrounding formation of art-focused team in ’43; Roosevelt’s priorities at time questioned by Jewish groups.

02/05/2014
Staff Writer
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The George Clooney movie that premieres Friday, “The Monuments Men,” tells the story of the 350-member team of professors, art historians and museum curators who scoured Europe for the millions of dollars worth of art looted by the Nazis. But there is a backstory worth talking about — the furor over the creation of the team in June 1943 touched off from those concerned about the fate of European Jews.

Paintings or people?  Image via teaser-trailer.com

Films Shine Light On Jewish-Polish Relationship

Best of the movies in two series touch on the tangled ties.

02/05/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

By an amusing coincidence, Polish seems to be the movie flavor of the month in February. With Lincoln Center hosting a program of “Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” and BAMCinematek offering “Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema” anyone with even an interest in one of the most important national cinemas of the last 75 years should be satisfied.

Scene from Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s “Austeria/The Inn,” about Jews seeking refuge from Cossacks during WWI.

Wrestling With Heschel

Shai Held takes on the iconic rabbi’s theology and spirituality in new biography.

02/04/2014
Culture Editor
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When Rabbi Shai Held was a college freshman, the late Professor Isadore Twersky told his seminar class, in a moment of candor, that Maimonides had been his life companion. Rabbi Held recalls that he found the comment strange, but now, decades later, he understands. For Rabbi Held, it is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with whom he has spent considerable time, whether reading his works, wrestling with his ideas, or teaching about him — and finding his words overwhelmingly beautiful, challenging or even infuriating.

Rabbi Shai Held says his biography of Heschel is “sympathetic and critical.”  Courtesy of Indiana University Press

Spoofing The Spy Thriller

02/04/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Whether you hail Edward Snowdon as a hero or condemn him as a traitor, the Snowdon case has brought renewed attention to the role of spies in international politics. Now comes Leonard Lehrman and Joel Shatzky’s left-wing cabaret show, “Superspy!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical,” a spoof of Cold War espionage thrillers. Lehrman, the composer, will be at the piano as he and his wife, Helene Williams, play all the characters in the show. Featuring songs like “The SDI Waltz,” a reference to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the show runs for three performances  over the next two weeks, beginning this Friday, at the Medicine Show Theatre in Midtown.

Helene Williams and Leonard Lehrman play all the roles in spy spoof at the Medicine Show Theatre.

Recasting The Daniel Pearl Story

01/28/2014
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Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes — and all levels of wealth and education. In Dick Brukenfeld’s new play, “Blind Angels,” a Jewish journalist is taken captive in New York by a group of his former Yale classmates, who are planning a 9/11-style attack. As many liberals have done, the play questions our nation’s use of force, suggesting that American drone attacks have led to reprisals by terrorists. It premieres next week at the Theater for the New City in the East Village.

Qurrat Ann Kadwani and Scott Raker star in “Blind Angels,” at the Theater for the New City. Jonathan Slaff
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