Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jason goes to SFJFF--Wednesday, August 7th

I'm way behind on this blog, so here goes. With a couple of weeks ago Wednesday, still at the SF Jewish Film Festival.

First up I saw JOE PAPP IN FIVE ACTS. Now I'm not a New Yorker, so I didn't actually know Joe Papp before this movie. He was a theater man in New York. But not just any theater man, he was the founder of the New York Public Theater. He brought Shakespeare to Central Park, he did it for free, and he got famous actors to appear in it. He was also a communist who got caught up in the Red Scare. And he was a secret Jew, only coming out and admitting he was Jewish when rabbis complained about the anti-semitism in The Merchant of Venice. And he became a powerful Broadway producer, with huge hits such as Hair and A Chorus Line. The movie itself is a fun, breezy, fast-paced affair that starts with plenty of hero worship but doesn't shy away from some less flattering portrait later in his life, when perhaps he becomes too isolated from his success. But this isn't a movie to dwell on how power corrupts. It's more about the incredibly charismatic and dedicated man who became so powerful in the first place.

And then I stuck around for ALIYAH, a deliberately-paced story of an aimless young French man. Alex deals a little drugs, he fixes his brother's problems, he...wanders through life. Then his cousin Nathan visits from Israel, and tells him of his grand plan to open a restaurant in Israel. Alex sees an opportunity out of his doldrums. But there are complications. First, he needs money to buy into the restaurant so he increases his dealing a bit. Second, he meets a new woman, and she might just be interesting enough to keep him in town. Aliyah is the word for Jewish immigration to Israel, and this is a particularly ambiguous kind of immigration story. Unfortunately, I found it kind of slow and boring. But maybe that's just me.

Total Running Time: 172 minutes
My Total Minutes: 336,737
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