Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jason goes to Jewfest--August 1

I'm not going to figure out what day of the fest that is. Anyway, I missed the weekend programs because of soccer, Niles, catching some mainstream movies closer to me, and general drunkenness. But I was up in Berkeley Monday night for a couple more Jewish Films:

First up, a remarkable documentary BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD by Liz Garbus (who did the 2009 SFJFF film SHOUTING FIRE: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF FREE SPEECH). Bobby Fischer is a fascinating character. Child prodigy, greatest chess master ever, crazy, recluse, Jew, anti-Semite, and more than anything a man who didn't get the psychiatric treatment he needed (or simple medical treatment, that ended his life prematurely in his 60s). He's such a famously private man, that it's almost jarring to see so much footage and so many brilliant photographs from his life--one of the most moving parts is right after winning the world championship he runs off to be alone in the mountains of Iceland, and there's a really poignant look on his face--like he's someone who is worshiped by the world but isn't connected to it. The center of the film is the famous 1972 World Champion match against Boris Spassky (and even if you already know the result, it is still unfolded with great tension and anticipation), and then delves into the "wilderness period" and the sad, jarring return to the spotlight. First as a diminished ex-champion (playing a meaningless rematch against Spassky) and then just being an occasional obnoxious and noxious commentator on world events (e.g., calling in to a TV show on 9/11 to say America got what was coming to it). And finally his exile in Iceland (the stage of his greatest triumph). It's easy to say that Bobby Fischer ended up against the whole world because of his own doing. But it's harder to put a finger on exactly why his particular brand of tortured genius (an insanity remarkably common among chess grand masters) drove him in that direction.

And then I stayed for the magic realist Israeli drama INTIMATE GRAMMAR. It centers on the life of little Aharon--an 11 year old boy who seems to stay 11 no matter how old he gets. Physically, he just doesn't grow, no matter how much he wants to. His sour-faced mom doesn't really help. Nor does his dad who is always doing odd jobs (saving a tree from worms, tearing down walls) for the pretty neighbor lady. Nor does his best friend, who is spending way to much time with the girl he (Aharon) likes. Nor the current political situation, that has his sister drafted into the IDF at a young age and all his friends (same age, but bigger) going off to youth camps to work at the kibbutzim. It's a well made, well acted, odd depiction of a slice of broken life, with an ending that I don't know what to make of.

Total Running Time: 202 minutes
My Total Minutes: 246,002

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