Showing posts from May, 2019

Revisiting Yiddish Film

Would the history of cinema be substantially changed if Edgar G. Ulmer had directed The Dybbuk instead of MichalWaszynski? One suspects not. Perhaps the history of Yiddish cinema might have been altered, but even then the change would have been minimal.

That thought occurred to me when I was looking over the list of a half-dozen films that will be playing at Film Forum as the series "The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema" from May 26-July 3. The series opens with Waszynski’s The Dybbuk, arguably the best Yiddish-language film ever made.

Waszynski was, despite his name, a Ukrainian Jew (originally named Wachs), a journeyman director who worked steadily in the Polish film industry in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Whether it was the multi-layered S. Ansky text or some dybbuk of his own that possessed him during the shooting of the film, this is his one utterly unforgettable work, a strange, hypnotic conglomeration of German expressionism, Jewish tragedy and a fog compounded of gravey…

Tribeca: Another Jewish-Themed Short

As regular readers of this blog know, my main writing bread-and-butter comes from Jewish Week, so much of my attention is occupied, inevitably, by movies with Jewish interest. In an artform that is often dominated by Jews, it is a beat that keeps me busy enough and, frequently, provides some artful cinematic stimulation. The Tribeca Film Festival, for example, can always be counted on fur a nice selection of Israeli and New York films about the "members of the tribe."

Consider "Black Hat," a deftly constructed 14-minute film directed by Sarah Smith from a shrewd script by Phillip Guttmann. Shmuel (Adam Silver) is a distracted young Hasid living in LA. His wife and children are away in NY but he is reluctant to join his rebbe for the Sabbath dinner. He is one of those absent-minded young men who is forever misplacing his black fedora, but there is something deeper troubling him.
Adam Silver dons the eponymous chapeau in "Black Hat"

Late that night he clim…

Tribeca Once Again

When you aren't enjoying writing for a living -- not a reflection on my editors, etc., just a fact of life after more than 48 years as a film critic -- then writing for nothing seems almost overwhelming difficult. Strangely, I'm more drawn to cinema than ever, with my teaching gig at Borough of Manhattan Community College the most rewarding and satisfying work I've ever done in film. But writing, at the moment, seems like an arduous and not very satisfying chore.

But the bills must be paid, press credentials must be maintained (and earned), and it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime.

So here I am, back at the old lemonade stand. The Tribeca Film Festival ends its 2019 run tomorrow and I must say it has been a good one for the most part. If you want to read my two pieces for Jewish Week, you can find them here and here.

Needless to say, there were many other films in the event that were worthy of notice.
Flawless is the latest Israeli film co-directed by Sharon Maymon …