Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Sunday, Nov 3

A couple more Jew-flicks last Sunday, so let's jump right in.

We started with the documentary KOCH, a mostly-loving tribute to Ed Koch, the man and legend who for some time dominated and defined New York City. Now I know pretty much nothing about New York City politics today, much less 1978-89 when he was mayor. So I can't really render an opinion of the man as a leader. I can say that the movie shows quite a few people remembering him fondly, and more than a couple who remember him with disgust. They say he was an enemy to black people (although he got their support in his first mayoral race, he then shut down an culturally important but expensive hospital in Harlem.) They say he was an enemy to gays (although he did campaign for and implement some anti-discrimination laws, he didn't do much about the AIDS crisis when it was first exploding.) They also say that he was gay (In his first campaign--against Mario Cuomo--there were signs saying "Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.") In fact, a lot of the conflict with the gay community seemed to stem from the belief that he was gay but refused to come out of the closet, robbing them of an important political ally. There's a very interesting part where Koch in 2012 answers those rumors with a very well-articulated response--essentially amounting to "it's none of your damn business and I refuse to answer so that others won't have to answer either" that is simultaneously utterly convincing and convinces me he really was gay. But so what? There's so much more to him. The cantankerous, sharp-elbowed, rough-edged New Yorker who brought the city back from the brink of bankruptcy, replaced blighted, abandoned neighborhoods with new public housing (really the first city to do this, back when Reagan was gutting the federal housing projects) and...well, again I know nothing of New York politics, but if this movie is to be believed he made New York what it is today. And I guess that's a good thing. The movie takes place shortly before he passed away, during the time when the Queensboro Bridge was being named after him. And it shows a man who--though getting on in years--could still motivate a crowd and loved being important more than anything else.

Next up was CLOSED SEASON, a very interesting WWII drama. It's told in a flashback by an Israeli man retelling his story to a young visitor who claims to be his biological son--which gives away a great deal of the plot there. A Jew on the run is discovered by a German farmer who is illegally hunting a deer. Taking pity, he brings the young man home, and even though his wife is nervous (she's clearly not a fan of Jews, and even less a fan of getting into trouble for one) he puts him up in the barn in exchange for various chores. And since the farmer is impotent the most important chore is to father a child for him. Yeah, with the wife whose not really happy with it but goes along out of a sense of duty. At first it's a sense of duty. Then the physical contact leads to emotional connections, and...well...when she does get pregnant she decides not to tell her husband right away so they can try at least a few more times. Needless to say, trouble ensues. I fear I might have given too much away in this review, but believe me I've left quite a few twists out. I'll just leave it at that and say it's a very interesting and slightly disturbing film.

I didn't stick around for ROMAN POLANSKI: A FILM MEMOIR because A) I'd already seen it before and B) I'm not really a fan of how it portrayed his legal troubles. But if you want to read what I wrote about it last year at Jewfest North, go here (about halfway down the page.)

Total Running Time: 199 minutes
My Total Minutes: 341,154

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