Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Saturday, Nov. 1

Last Saturday was f*cked up family night at the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.

First up was IT HAPPENED IN SAINT-TROPEZ, a very French romantic comedy about marriage, death, lust, and sibling rivalry. Zef and Roni are brothers, Zef a religious Jew and a classical musician. Roni a secular jewelry magnate. They don't get along. In fact, Zef isn't even really planning to visit for Roni's daughter's wedding. But when Zef's wife is suddenly struck by a car and dies, they end up having a dual wedding/shiva (after all, you couldn't expect the entire family to drop the wedding and come to New York for a funeral.) Travelling there, Zef's daughter meets a very handsome man on the train, and even kisses him. Which is so unlike her, it's usually her cousin (the bride to be) that is so impulsive. Well...things get zanily awkward when it turns out that handsome man happens to be her cousin's groom (although he doesn't see her there, she's hidden in the back room playing music over her mother's coffin.)

Anyway, this is becoming way too much of just a plot synopsis. That was all just the setup. They haven't even gotten to Saint-Tropez yet. It's a pretty funny story that at times threatens to tear the family apart (although they were pretty separated to start out) but ultimately the friendship of the two cousins brings everything together.

And then there was BLUMENTHAL. The late playwright Harold Blumenthal (Brian Cox) dominates this movie from beyond the grave via televised interviews. His brother Saul (Mark Blum) hated the guy, but nonetheless is blocked up over it--literally, he hasn't defecated in days. Meanwhile Saul's wife Cheryl (Laila Robins) is having her own crisis about being an aging actress. And Saul and Cheryl's son Ethan (writer-director Seth Fisher) is probably the most messed-up one, an overblown neurotic relationship-sabotager. The elephant in the room is that Harold's plays were not-too-secretly based on his family's life, and they're not to happy about being reduced to Jewish-American kitsch. Which is actually a criticism that could be leveled against the movie, but reconciling that criticism is also kind of the point of the movie. If Woody Allen made the popular Jewish-American stereotype one of a neurotic New Yorker, then BLUMENTHAL shows that neurotic New York Jews can also be true-to-life interesting characters, and that kitsch is one way of exploring ourselves.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,045

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