The Arty Semite

The Mischievous Life of Marcel Ophüls

By Allen Ellenzweig

The documentary “Ain’t Misbehavin’” — which received its American premiere January 8 at the New York Jewish Film Festival — is a significant change of pace for its director, Marcel Ophüls. Previously, Ophüls has given us magisterial inquiries into 20th century moral outrages, including his pre-eminent “The Sorrow and the Pity,” a disturbing exploration of French collaboration during the Nazi occupation, and “The Memory of Justice,” which examined the postwar world’s legal and ethical sense in the wake of the Nuremberg trials.

In “Ain’t Misbehavin’” — a terrible English title for what should have been a direct translation from the French, “A Traveler” — Ophüls is up to something decidedly more mischievous: He offers a self-portrait in late age, a memoir of youth, the tale of a family’s diaspora in the face of the Nazi menace, and a distinguished filmmaker’s tribute to his father, Max Ophüls, who himself had a legendary career in Germany, France and Hollywood, with films of dark romanticism including “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” “The Earrings of Madame de,” and “Lola Montès.”

Using still photographs, clips from his father’s films and his own, and interview footage shot in various world capitals and resorts, Ophüls fils presents himself as a travel guide of his family’s enforced peregrinations, a self-styled failed roué whose adored wife has separated from him, and a filmmaker whose nearly two-decade retirement this film ends.

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Hitchcock Holocaust Doc To Be Screened At Last

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A Holocaust documentary by Alfred Hitchcock will be screened in theatres and at festivals later this year, and on television in early 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe at the end of World War II.

It was not widely known that Hitchcock was enlisted in 1945 by his friend and patron Sidney Bernstein to assist with the making of a documentary on German atrocities. The Guardian reports that Hitchcock was so traumatized by the footage shot by British and Soviet film units at liberated concentration camps that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, where he filmed some of his films, for a week. “Hitchcock may have been the king of horror movies but he was utterly appalled by ‘the real thing.’”

The idea was to produce and show the film to the Germans to make them face and take responsibility for what they had done. However, production was delayed, and by late 1945, there was less interest. Apparently, “the Allied military government decided that rubbing the Germans’ noses in their own guilt wouldn’t help with postwar reconstruction.”

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From France to Odessa, With Love

By Allen Ellenzweig

It’s easy to see why “Friends From France” (“Les interdits”), a film about the freighted history of Jewish “refuseniks” in the Soviet Union, was chosen to open this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival. In the story’s foreground are two young Parisian Jews, Carole and Jérôme, on a group tour in Brezhnev-era Odessa. They are smuggling in contraband such as books and sweets while posing for their fellow French tourists as a newly engaged couple who just happen to be taking an eccentric rather than romantic trip. In fact, they are cousins, and they are struggling with their attraction to each other. Traipsing around to see the sights by day, and under cover by night as “friends from France,” they have arranged meetings with Soviet Jews living in dire circumstances and desperate to leave the country, with Israel as their goal.

While the young couple’s passing through customs to enter the USSR provides a moment of early suspense, it is their meeting with Viktor, an aging physicist whose wife and son managed to emigrate 10 years earlier, which provides Jérôme with a greater moral quandary than whether or not to bed Carole. While Carole’s commitment to the cause of Soviet Jewry seems pure, if naïve, Jérôme’s seems reflexive, something he may be doing to prove his manhood to his beautiful cousin or to himself. With large framed glasses and a head of thick curls, he has the look of an Ashkenazi nerd, and his dour countenance, combined with an evident chip on his shoulder, hardly endears him to the audience. For Carole, Jérôme’s goofiness may be the charm. Yet something in his intelligent gaze makes Jérôme a person in whom Viktor invests his faith.

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Jonah Hill and 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

By Dorri Olds

Jonah Hill has reached a new high. The 30-year-old comic actor is co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which opened December 25. On December 19, Hill spoke at “Reel Pieces,” the Annette Insdorf series at the 92Y. Hill comes across as a man with integrity, intensity, intelligence, and someone you just want to hug.

What led up to you landing the role of Donnie Azoff?

Jonah Hill: Leo DiCaprio was promoting a film in Mexico and by chance I was too. He was the producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street” so I thought “I want to meet with him before I meet Martin Scorsese.” We sat down for a meeting. When we met I said “I have to play this part, so I’m sorry if you have anyone else in mind. That’s just not going to happen.” [Grins]

Why were you so sure you should play this part?

I recognized that person in society. I had to be a part of illuminating what’s wrong with that kind of excess and valuing money over everything else.

When did you hear you got the part?

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How To Get De Niro and Stallone in the Ring

By Curt Schleier

Thirty years ago, boxers Billy “the Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp split two hard-fought light heavyweight contests. But for reasons soon revealed, there was never a rubber match, despite the personal animosity between the two.

Now, three decades years later, a young promoter has convinced them to participate in a “Grudge Match,” which will be released nationally December 25. Obviously, two overweight, over-the-hill fighters going at it offers delicious comic possibilities. Take two veteran — that is, geriatric — gladiators: Sylvester Stallone as McDonnen and Robert De Niro as Sharp, and the laughs increase exponentially.

The man in charge of the literal and figurative mayhem is Peter Segal, a successful veteran of comedies that starred everyone from the late Leslie Nielsen (“Naked Gun 33 ⅓”) to Adam Sandler (“The Longest Yard,” “Anger Management”) to Steve Carell (“Get Smart”).

Segal, 51, spoke to the Forward about why there are jokes in the trailer you won’t see in the movie, his first film, a super 8 version of “Lost in Space,” and his grandfather, the man in black.

Curt Schleier: There’s a show business saying: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” How did you wind up making the hard choice?

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Abigail Breslin on 'August: Osage County'

By Dorri Olds

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Most families have their share of rage, but the Westons in “August: Osage County,” opening December 25, make other dysfunctional families seem normal.

The film, adapted by Tracy Letts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, offers a close look at sibling relationships, and Meryl Streep, who plays the cruel matriarch Violet Weston, is a sure bet for an Oscar nomination. The cast also includes Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney and Abigail Breslin, who plays Jean Fordham, Weston’s granddaughter.

We caught up with Breslin December 10, when she was at the 92Y to talk about the film as part of the Reel Pieces series with Annette Insdorf.

Did you ever see the play?

Abigail Breslin: No, when it was on Broadway in New York I was like 10, and my parents thought, “Oh no, this isn’t right for children.”

How was your audition?

I had a weird audition experience. I didn’t think I was going to get the part. When I auditioned I had a 103-degree fever and sounded like a dying cat. “This is not good,” I thought. But then a few months later I found out I got it.

Did you improvise at all?

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'American Hustle' Inspired by Real-Life Jewish Conman

By Curt Schleier

“American Hustle,” David O. Russell’s inventive and energetic take on the Abscam scandal, starts with a tone-setting (and laugh-inducing) placard on the screen:

“Some of this actually happened.”

But, of course, a lot of it didn’t, and in that terrain between fact and fiction, Russell and co-screenwriter Eric Warren Singer have re-imagined the story as it might have been conceived by Jonathan Swift and John Waters.

Abscam was a late ‘70s, early ‘80s FBI corruption investigation that netted — some say, entrapped — more than a half dozen congressman and a passel of state and local officials.

It was led by a Long Island conman named Mel Weinberg, who’d been indicted for mail fraud and other charges related to a fake loan scheme he’d operated. An ambitious FBI agent hired him (!) to churn the waters for cons like his. He was even paid a bonus for every conviction he earned. Ultimately, this led to the congressmen.

I should note that the FBI hiring a conman and paying a piece rate bonus is not the bizarro film, but the bizarro reality.

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Eric Roberts on What It's Like to Play a Nazi

By Dorri Olds

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Actor Eric Roberts is pretty busy but he likes it that way. Roberts just wrapped “Escaping the Holocaust,” Josh A. Weber’s film about his own family. Weber’s grandfather, Max Fronenberg, spent a year digging a tunnel to escape a prison camp and saved 15 people but couldn’t convince the woman he loved to come with him. The movie tells of their reunion 30 years later. Roberts agreed to an exclusive interview for the Arty Semite.

Dorri Olds: What can you tell me about “Escaping the Holocaust”?

Eric Roberts: I’m playing a Nazi. It’s a reenactment film. My friend Josh Weber wanted to do this movie and asked for my help. After I said yes he told me, “You’re playing the worst man in the movie,” and I am. The guy is a monster who shoots a little girl in the back.

What’s the story arc?

Josh’s grandfather escaped a concentration camp leaving behind the woman he’d fallen in love with. She was too scared to try to run. As years went by they both assumed the other was dead. Thirty years later, after his wife dies, Fronenberg reunites with the concentration camp woman.

Was it emotional to play a Nazi?

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Claude Lanzmann and the Boss of Theresienstadt

By Allen Ellenzweig

“The Last of the Unjust” is at once a documentary on the Holocaust, a character portrait, an inquiry into the nature of evil, a rumination on drawing moral distinctions, and a lesson on the pedagogical limits of film. This well over three-hour documentary, directed — or should we say “constructed”? — by Claude Lanzmann, whose nine-and-a-half-hour “Shoah” of 1985 set the bar impossibly high for anyone foolish enough to take on the same subject, is an adjunct to that earlier project. In “The Last of the Unjust,” Lanzmann takes a massive amount of interview footage with one Viennese rabbi, Benjamin Murmelstein, originally intended for “Shoah,” and uses it to home in on this particular Jew caught up in the ethical quagmire of the concentration camps.

In this case, the “camp” is the model village Theresienstadt, the former Czech garrison Terezin, “given to the Jews” by Hitler, but used for propaganda purposes such that the International Red Cross was taken in by the elaborate subterfuge. As a Nazi “public relations” film of the period shows, Theresienstadt was populated by happy, well fed children playing games, vigorous Jewish athletes engaged in a soccer match around a large inner courtyard for the pleasure of a packed “house,” and talented Jewish musicians performing symphonic music for the interned masses. Factory workers industriously produced goods for the self-sufficient village, and so purposeful and idealistic are the looks on all of these Jewish faces, one wonders if Leni Riefenstahl could have produced any more invigorating picture of Jews as their own master race. Indeed, in this piece of twisted propaganda, Theresienstadt is made to appear a homeland for which any Jew would seek to make aliyah.

But Lanzmann’s film does not provide a historical reconstruction of the town itself; instead, in a week’s worth of interviews conducted in 1975 with Murmelstein, the third Jewish elder to have administrated the town, and thus a man at the will and whim of the Nazis, Lanzmann forces us to measure the guilt or innocence of a Jewish “collaborator” — one of those Jewish elders whom Hannah Arendt fingered with contempt.

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'S#x Acts' Explores Dark Side of Sexuality

By Curt Schleier

Israeli-born director Jonathan Gurfinkel’s first film is officially called “S#x Acts.” You can substitute an “I” for the asterisk, because the movie has six acts. Or you can put in an “E,” because there are numerous erotic scenes. But mostly it is an emotionally charged film about bullying that is both fascinating and depressing.

Courtesy Tribeca Film

In “S#x Acts,” a young girl who has moved to a new school uses sex to win favor with the popular boys in her class, boys who, in turn, manipulate and abuse her.

Gurfinkel, 37, born and raised in Tel Aviv, spoke to the Forward about his film, out December 6 in New York and available on demand, about his famous father, and about the fact that there are no Hollywood endings in real life.

Curt Schleier: You were raised in the movie business, weren’t you?

Jonathan Gurfinkel: My father [David] is a very well known cinematographer, almost mythological in Israel. He shot a lot of films in the states for Canon [the defunct company owned by Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus], like “Rambo 3: Over the Top” with [Sylvester] Stallone and a lot of classic Israeli films. So I was kind of brought up on the set. The only film where I wasn’t on the set with him was one with John Cassavetes. He only finished about a quarter of it before Cassavetes fired him. Or he resigned. The facts aren’t certain. And I wasn’t there to see it.

So your career was bashert.

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Seeing David Cronenberg in Double Vision

By Michael Kaminer

Nearly 50 years since his first student films, David Cronenberg is getting a pair of well-deserved tributes in his hometown of Toronto. For the Jewish-Canadian filmmaker, it’s been an unlikely ascent from genre outlaw to artistic heavyweight. And twinned exhibitions make the case that his intellectual and cultural significance extends far beyond his onscreen output.

Courtesy TIFF/George Pimentel

The more elaborate of the two exhibitions, “Evolution,” provides a thrilling look at the Cronenberg’s work and process. The title of this dark, dazzling show — at the Bell Lightbox, home of the Toronto International Film Festival — fits perfectly. Cronenberg has evolved as a major figure in world cinema, from the brainy grad-school filmmaker in the late 1960s who explored pitch-black themes of paranoia and control to the mainstream-movie maker he’s become.

His work has evolved from the intellectual body horror of “Shivers” (1975) and “Rabid” (1976) to heady explorations of what it means to be human in “A Dangerous Method” (2011) and “Cosmopolis” (2011). And the world has evolved to catch up with his prescient mashups of humanity and technology in fleshy sci-fi like “Videodrome” (1983) and “eXistenZ” (1999).

With in-your-face video clips, eloquent wall texts, and props from his films — including the notorious gynaecological tools from “Dead Ringers” (1988) and an actual Mugwump from “Naked Lunch” (1991) — “Evolution” lays out an eloquent case for Cronenberg’s import as an artist and thinker.

It also manages to evoke the high-low thrills of his movies, which ground serious existential musings in razor-edged pulp. Seeing some of the effects and objects from films — like the gristle “guns” from “eXistenZ” — makes you realize all over again how radical some of Cronenberg’s visions have been.

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Evan Rachel Wood on Motherhood and Romania

By Dorri Olds

Evan Rachel Wood stars with Shia LaBeouf in Fredrik Bond’s Tarrantino-esque thriller, “Charlie Countryman,” which opened November 15 in limited release. LaBeouf plays Charlie, whose dead mother appears and sends him to Bucharest. The griefstricken and unglued Charlie goes through a series of bizarre events leading him to Gabi (Wood), a mysterious Romanian he falls instantly in love with. The trouble is, as director Fredrik Bond put it, “Gabi is like playing with plutonium.” It is a dark and twisted, yet funny love story, in the brutal underworld of Bucharest.

As for her personal life, Wood, born to theatrical parents Ira David Wood and Sarah Lynn Moore, has been acting since she was 5 years old. On July 29, Wood and her husband, actor Jamie Bell, had their first child. The Arty Semite caught up with her on Wednesday in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

Dorri Olds: Congratulations on being a mom. What do you like most about motherhood?

Evan Rachel Wood: Everything. It was my dream to be a mom so I’m loving it.

Is it hard getting back into the swing of work after having the baby?

Yeah, these last couple of days I’ve been having separation anxiety. I’m so used to having the baby right here [motions to her chest]. It’s strange. They become a part of you. I was lucky because I’d just done three films before I got pregnant so I was like, “I’m taking a break.”

What’s it like working with Shia LaBeouf?

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'Cupcake's Israeli Neighborhood Charm

By Anne Joseph

Eytan Fox’s latest film, “Cupcakes,” (“Bananot” in Hebrew, meaning bananas) will receive its U.K. gala premiere when it closes the 17th UK Jewish Film Festival on November 17, in London. A feel-good musical comedy about love, life and friendship, the movie is a significant shift away from the award winning writer-director’s previous works such as “Yossi & Jagger,” “Walk on Water” and “Yossi.” Fox is known for addressing major themes such as the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and doomed love affairs — in particular gay relationships — but “Cupcakes” is markedly different. It oozes nostalgia for an Israel that had, according to Fox, a sense of community, when neighborhoods possessed an intimate character. It harks back to “the long gone days of innocence, the days you borrowed a cup of sugar from your neighbor and stayed for coffee,” says Keren, the film’s commentator. “Cupcakes” is wonderfully entertaining kitsch and is as deliciously saccharine as a film can get.

Set in Tel Aviv, the movie shows a group of neighbours who get together to watch Universong , a Eurovision-esque television song contest. The evening is an opportunity to get away from the stresses of their daily lives — Dana (Dana Ivgi) is a high-strung aide to a cabinet minister but at the same time tries to please her traditional father; Keren (Keren Berger), is a shy, awkward blogger with a lisp; Yael (Yael Bar-Zohar) is a former model who is unfulfilled by both her job as a corporate lawyer and her relationship with her boss; Efrat (Efrat Dor) is a singer-songwriter whose career is in a rut; Ofer (Ofer Shechter) is a nursery school teacher whose long term pin-up boyfriend is still in the closet and won’t come out publicly and Anat (Anat Waxman) runs a successful bakery but her marriage is falling apart. When the friends learn that Anat is upset because her husband has left her, they compose a song to cheer her up and “A Song for Anat” unexpectedly becomes Israel’s entry for the following year’s contest.

There is palpable onscreen chemistry between these six main characters and their obvious enjoyment makes for infectious viewing. All are stars from Israeli media and they play using their own names, as does Edouard Baer, the presenter of Universong. Actor Lior Ashkenazi also makes a guest appearance. But it is the expressive singing-dancing tutu-wearing Ofer Shechter who steals the show.

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'Aftermath' Sheds Light on Polish Anti-Semitism

By Curt Schleier

“Aftermath,” written and directed by Polish filmmaker Władysław Pasikowski, is everything you can ask of a movie and more. It is intelligent, thoughtful and involving, an experience that will generate conversations long after the last frame dissolves into nothingness.

It is also brave — brave of Pasikowski, brave of his actors, brave of his crew. “Aftermath” refers to what happened after World War II, when property and land stolen from Jewish families was not returned and where there was no proper accounting for the dead. It is brutal in its depiction of a nation where not much changed.

The movie takes place in 2001. Franek Kalina (Ireneusz Czop) returns to his small village in central Poland where he was raised, after living for two decades in the U.S. His return is prompted by the unexpected visit from Poland of his brother’s wife. She won’t say why she left him, so Franek goes home to find out.

He discovers that his brother, Józek (Maciej Stuhr), is shunned and vilified by the townspeople. No one, not Józek nor his neighbors, want to speak about it.

All a police officer tells Franek is that Józek was almost arrested for tearing up a road. Franek is perplexed. He visits the site, and all he sees is rocks. But he soon learns the truth.

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How To Make a New Yiddish Film

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

The first words in the trailer for the new Yiddish-language film “The Pin” are “Ikh ken nit khapn dem otem” — “I can’t catch my breath.” The movie, currently playing in New York, takes place primarily in a barn in an unknown location during the Second World War, and the two main characters, Jacob (Grisha Pasternak) and Leah (Milda Gecaite), are two young Jews who fall in love while hiding from the Nazis. Due to a terrible fear of being buried alive, Leah makes Jacob promise that he will poke her body with a pin should she die, in order to make sure that she is really dead. Decades later, the same Jacob, volunteering as a shomer in a funeral home in Canada, notices that the body lying before him is Leah’s, the same woman he once loved and to whom he made that gut-wrenching promise.

Naomi Jaye, 40, the Canadian director and writer of the film, told the Forward that the script’s inspiration came from two sources. The first was the television-show “Six Feet Under,” which follows a family that runs a funeral-home, and which led Jaye to become “fascinated with death.” Jaye believes that this fascination led her to become interested in the mass-murder of Jews conducted by the Einsatzgruppen during World War II, which were characterized by open-air shootings followed by burials in hastily dug mass-graves.

The second inspiration was a story about her own grandmother, Leah Jaye. Like the Leah in the film, her grandmother was terrified of being buried alive and had asked her son, the director’s father, to poke her body with a pin to be certain of her death. “I was really interested in this act,” Jaye said, “because it is both an act of love and yet at the same time it’s a violent act. I became very interested in this, in how the two elements come together.”

Although Jaye had always planned on making her film in an Eastern-European language, she had never thought about making it in Yiddish. Initially she considered making the film in Russian or Lithuanian. “When I began, however, to look for funding for the film and was researching the topic it suddenly occurred to me that the two leads would be speaking to each other in Yiddish. It was like a light bulb turned on in my head.”

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‘Last Vegas’ Just the Beginning for Dan Fogelman

By Curt Schleier

If Dan Fogelman were any hotter, he’d have planets revolving around him. Fogelman is the screenwriter behind such hits as “Cars” and “Tangled” and “Crazy Stupid Love.” He’s also creator and producer of ABC’s “The Neighbors,” the subversively intelligent and subversively Jewish comedy.

ABC/PETER "HOPPER" STONE

He’s also in post-production of his first directing effort, “Imagine,” a film starring Al Pacino as Danny Collins, a successful but aging musician.

Fogelman does aging well. November 1 marks the release of his latest effort, “Last Vegas.” It’s about childhood friends — they call themselves the Flatbush Four — now all of Medicare age, who decide to throw a party in Vegas when the bachelor in their group announces he’s getting married — to a woman in her 30s.

It stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline. And while on the surface it might appear that the film targets seniors, at a recent screening filled with mostly young people, it has the entire audience laughing throughout. It will almost certainly be the comedy hit of the year.

Fogelman recently spoke to The Arty Semite about how his parents influenced his films, being the Hebrew School class clown and how his bar mitzvah screenplay started his career.

Curt Schleier: How did “Last Vegas” come about?

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'Jerry Seinfeld of France' Gets Serious

By Curt Schleier

“A Costa-Gavras Film” atop a marquee or movie poster is the equivalent of the old Good Housekeeping magazine seal of approval: a guarantee that the movie will be well acted, intelligent and politically charged.

Courtesy Cohen Media

In “Capital,” the Greek-French director probably best known for “Z,” “State of Siege” and “Missing” doesn’t disappoint. Here he targets the international banking system, which not only has the wherewithal but also the will to tear down the world economy in its pursuit of still another penny of profit.

Costa-Gavras’s choice for the lead, Gad Elmaleh, is as interesting as the film. Elmaleh, 42, plays Marc Tourneil, new head of the Phenix Bank, who will do anything and step over anyone in pursuit of riches. What makes his selection unusual is that Gad, a Moroccan-born Jew, is a comedian. In fact, he’s known as the Jerry Seinfeld of France.

Elmaleh has mastered Moroccan Arabic, Hebrew, French and a passable English. While he occasionally reached for a word, he spoke to The Arty Semite about how he got the part, being directed by the likes of Costa-Gavras and Steven Spielberg, and the tradition of tolerance in Morocco.

Curt Schleier: You’re a comedian. You don’t seem like a logical choice for this part.

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Beat Poet Finally Found What He Was Looking For

By Jay Michaelson

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Holy Allen Ginsberg: An episode in the life of the poet is the subject of the new film “Kill Your Darlings.”

How much of our yearning for transcendence is actually a yearning for love?

The sublimation of desire takes many forms. Mystics longing for the divine, clearly, but more subtly, even those religious who aver no such emotional fire, but who nonetheless gain senses of connection from the observance of rituals. And it appears in poetry, in art, and in human relationships of many configurations.

“Kill Your Darlings,” the new film about a lesser-known episode in the life of poet Allen Ginsberg, is as painful an evocation of this confusion of desires, particularly when they are unconsummated. The film tells the story of Ginsberg’s first transformations from awkward, suburban Jewish teenager into the history-making Beat poet he would later become (a period also captured in Ginsberg’s journals, published as “The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice,” which I reviewed for this publication a few years ago).

There are only glimmers of Ginsberg’s poetic genius here, however. What’s foremost in him, as portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe, is longing. He yearns to break free, to challenge convention, to make a mark on history.

Or does he? “Kill Your Darlings” nails the ambiguity of Ginsberg’s longings, which may be more for the rebellious, beautiful Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) than for lofty goals of poetry and revolution. Carr is everything Ginsberg is not: rebellious, fearless, hip, and sexually vibrant. And gorgeous: DeHaan looks like Leonardo DiCaprio’s sexier little brother, and his waifish Carr is irresistible. (He also looks a lot like Ginsberg’s eventual lover, Peter Orlovsky.)

Carr is used to being the object of male affection, and much of the film revolves around his codependent relationship with David Kammerer, an older man who writes Carr’s college papers for him in exchange for sex. As the film reveals in the opening reel, Carr eventually kills Kammerer, under circumstances which are only gradually revealed. But Carr here is the villain; he exploits the affection of Kammerer and Ginsberg alike, and revels in rebelliousness while insulated from the consequences by his family’s wealth.

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What's Behind Israel's Zombie Outbreak?

By Matthew Rovner

Nothing brings people together — or rips them apart — like zombies. In the recent Hollywood blockbuster “World War Z,” Israelis and Palestinians band together against swarming hordes of the undead. But this unlikely coalition is short lived. The noise of their joint celebration attracts thousands of flesh-eaters who hurl themselves over a massive security wall and proceed to devour everyone in sight.

This year, Israel unleashes two of its own zombie films, Eitan Gafny’s “Cannon Fodder” and Eitan Reuven’s “Another World.” Reuven’s film has just been completed, while Gafney’s has already garnered four awards at festivals around the world. These films were preceded by the short zombie comedy “Muralim” (“Poisoned”), made in 2011 by Didi Lubetzky. Is there some meaning behind this outbreak of Israeli zombie films, other than the worldwide popularity of the genre?

“World War Z” was largely dismissed by Arab press outlets, such as Al Jazeera, and Arab moviegoers, as “Zionist propaganda.” In that film, Israel is praised for its foresight for constructing a massive wall to keep zombies out. “World War Z” also depicts the Israeli army as a benevolent force that rescues Palestinians. Newspapers such as the Washington Times reported that many Arab filmgoers found these scenes false and insulting. Some believed the zombie-wall represented a covert justification for Israel’s separation barrier. There were even Israeli film critics, such as Chen Hadad for “Achbar ha’Ir” magazine, who took issue with the purely heroic portrayal of the Israeli army. Both sides found the Israeli-Palestinian festivities to be grossly unrealistic. However, these scenes may also represent wish-fulfillment, a genuine desire to see peace in the Middle East. The fact that this peace seems ridiculous to Israelis and Palestinians demonstrates feelings of hopelessness about the conflict.

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IMAX 'Jerusalem' Closer to Heaven Than Earth

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy National Geographic

National Geographic Entertainment’s cinematographically beautiful new 3D IMAX movie “Jerusalem” is closer to the heavenly Jerusalem than to the earthly one. But even devoid of contemporary political context, the film provides an informative and visually stunning introduction to the Old City of Jerusalem and its fundamental importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For those unfamiliar with the Holy City, “Jerusalem” is a concise, clear and captivating primer. And for those of us who regularly follow the conflict-fueled news from the Israeli capital, it temporarily zooms us out and away from the daily grind, reminding us of why Jerusalem is and always has been considered by so many to be the center of the earth.

The different quarters of the Old City are introduced and represented by three young women: Revital Zacharie, a Jew; Farah Amouri, a Muslim; and Nadia Tadros, a Christian. Each woman shares a bit about her life, her family’s history in Jerusalem, and her religion’s enduring connection to the place. The filmmakers bolster the women’s personal narratives with scenes of the rituals and festivities of Passover, Easter and Ramadan as they are practiced in the Old City.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: IMAX, Jerusalem, Film, Documentaries, Benedict Cumberbatch, National Geographic




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