JERUZALEM

Top.Set against the backdrop of one of the holiest cities in the world, Jeruzalem follows two American tourists as their dream vacation turns into an unholy nightmare. (EML: 3.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Eliana M. Levenson 

With a twist on found footage, the Paz brothers’ horror film, Jeruzalem uses the tech of “Smart Glass” as the lens through which the viewer experiences the film.

The film opens with old-fashioned footage of two priests who witness the rising of the dead and the transformation of those dead into winged demon zombies.

Now in the present, “Sarah” (Danielle Jadelyn) receives smart glass as a present from her “Father” (Howard Rypp). She quickly puts them on and starts to mess around with them. The glasses have voice command, facial recognition, and of course, are constantly recording.

Still grieving from her brother’s death, Sarah is leaving for Tel Aviv with her best friend “Rachel” (Yael Grobglas) to party and try and let loose. However, when they meet “Kevin” (Yon Tumarkin), a hot young adventurer, on the plane to Israel, they decide to forgo their original plans and join him at a hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Once in the Old City, the girls are in awe of the maze-like structure of the old buildings, the history and the religious significance of the place. They meet “Omar” (Tom Graziani), a local whose father runs the hostel, and he shows them around the city.

An odd homeless man, “King David” (Itsko Yampulski) tries to warn them all of something evil returning to the city. He insists that they must leave before Yom Kippur, but Omar assures them that the man is just crazy.Middle

Kevin soon reveals that he has also heard these rumors and urges Sarah to leave with him. Sarah tries to convince Rachel that they should head to Tel Aviv—like their original plan—but Rachel refuses to leave.

So, the girls stay put, that is, until all hell breaks loose. Literally. As the quiet streets of the Old City become a warzone full of winged zombies.

While the acting leaves something to be desired, the creativity of the storytelling is evident in every frame of the film. Using Smart Glass allows for a new take on the standard found footage horror and allows for some comedic moments as well. The apps and texting features allow for a juxtaposition of two ideas at one time in a seamless, unobtrusive way.

For instance, texts from Sarah’s father appear on the glass as we watch her hook up with Kevin. However, the Smart Glass also serves practical purposes. First of all, Sarah has use of both of her hands, so she isn’t inhibited in any way as the “cinematographer” and never has to decide between protecting herself or dropping the camera. Secondly, the GPS capabilities help the characters find their way in the maze of the narrow streets of the Old City. And lastly, the facial recognition software allows characters to be easily identified to both other characters and the audience.

Beyond the storytelling method of the film, Jeruzalem also poses an interesting idea on the religious significance of Jerusalem. Opening with a Talmudic quote about the gateways to hell and utilizing the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, as the day of Judgment when Hell opens its gates rather than heaven, the film does not shy away from using the religious history of its location.

© Eliana M. Levenson FF2 Media (1/21/16)001Top Photo: The poster for Jeruzalem.

Middle Photo: Sarah and Rachel pose for a selfie, in a rare moment of seeing both Sarah and her Smart Glass.

Bottom Photo: Two soldiers stare down one of the zombies.

Photo Credits: Epic Pictures Group

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ART & HEART

First JLH Day at the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival

Full Title = Art and Heart: The World of Isaiah Sheffer

SchefferAffectionate BioDoc by Catherine Tambini about Manhattan mensch Isaiah Sheffer.

Sheffer is well-known nationally as the creator and host of NPR's Selected Shorts, but Jewish New York knows him as the impressario of Symphony Space.

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Top Photo: Scheffer during a broadcast.

Bottom Photo: Scheffer at a Symphony Space event with NPR's Ira Glass.

 

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NATASHA

First JLH Day at the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival

MarkStunning adaptation by David Bezmozgis of his 2001 short story Natasha. 

Bezmozgis is clearly obsessed with the story of Natasha--for good reason--and he made the excellent decision to both write and direct the adaptation himself.

Natasha is the story of a teenager named "Mark Berman" (Alex Ozerov) who was born in Latvia but emigrated to Canada with his parents "Bella" (Deanna Dezmari) and "Roman" (Genadijs Dolganovs) when he was very young. Roman has done very well in Canada. He has clearly worked very hard to provide his wife and son with an enviable standard of living. But he worries that Mark is now a bit soft, and doesn't appreciate the rigors of life.

Then someone new enters this well-settled world. She is "Zina" (Aya Tatyana Stolnits), a woman from Russia who has come to Canada to marry Bella's uncle "Fima" (Igor Ovadis). Zina is much younger than Fima, and Roman is immediately suspicious. But Fima has never had any luck with women, so Bella convinces her family to keep an open mind.

As soon as a wedding date is set, Zina makes arrangements to bring her daughter "Natasha" (Sasha K. Gordon) to Canada too. Bella retains her optimism. Be helpful. Be kind. But Zina and Natasha have not come from a kind place. Without ever intending to, Bella sets her son up for wrenching lessons in deceit and betrayal that will last a lifetime.

The power of Natasha comes full circle in its ending. I actually thought the end had come several scenes before it did. I actually thought to myself: "What more is there to say?" But then, when the ending did come, it was perfect. I actually said to myself: "Wow! I didn't see that coming!"

Wild horses will not pull the ending out of me! My point is that Bezmozgis had kept me so firmly anchored in Mark's POV that I only knew what he knew. Therefore I totally was surprised because he was surprised.

(Compare this to a film like The Martian. We all know mid-way through that his buddies will go back to rescue him and "the [temporary] Martian will eventually return to Planet Earth. I was bored to death...)

PS to my readers: If you have not read Bezmozgis' originally story, please do not do so now. Please wait until after you see the film. I promise you, you will be glad you did!

Natasha

Top Photo: Alex Ozerov as "Mark Berman."

Bottom Photo: Sasha K. Gordon as "Natasha" openly defies her mother "Zina" (Aya Tatyana Stolnits).

Photo Credits: Elly Dassas & Christos Kalohoridis/Menemsha Films

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PEGGY GUGGENHEIM (JLH)

Full Title = Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

PeggyAOTC

For all the books written about her since her death in 1979--and even despite the two books she wrote about herself--Peggy Guggenheim remains an elusive subject.

Filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland's great contribution to PG's legacy is twofold. First, she shows us the depth and breadth of the physical objects PG collected. Second, she literally walks us through the sublime spaces PG designed to display them.

No book--now matter how beautifully produced--can equal this intimate audience experience. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is one of my Top Docs of 2015! (JLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

Who won World War II? As we prepare to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex on January 27, 2016, I would like to make the case that one of the big winners of World War II was Peggy Guggenheim. Say what?

In her superlative new documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland introduces her subject with quotes from talking heads who are often quite snide and yet 95 minutes later, her heroine has triumphed. Despite all who would doubt or demean her, in spite of all who would endanger her wealth, her well-being and even her life, Peggy Guggenheim proved herself to be invincible.

We hear the name “Guggenheim” today, and we picture a world of people born with silver spoons. But Vreeland shows with a brief overview of PG’s family tree that the wealth of the Guggenheims (on her father’s side) like the wealth of the Seligmans (on her mother’s side) was entirely new money, all of which was made in America.

PG’s Seligman great-grandfather—Joseph Seligman—was born in Baiersdorf, Germany in 1819. At age 17, Joseph Seligman boarded a steamer at Bremen and sailed to America, where he worked as peddler in rural Pennsylvania. But by the time he died at age 60 in 1880, Joseph Seligman had amassed a fortune and founded a dynasty.

Meyer Guggenheim, PG’s paternal grandfather, was also born in the Old Country. He left Switzerland in 1847 at age 19, and started his new life in America in the import business. Then he saved his money, went west, and invested in Colorado mines. When Meyer Guggenheim died in 1905, he was the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in late 19th Century America.

Barbara and Meyer Guggenheim raised ten children (seven sons and three daughters). Babet and Joseph Seligman raised nine children (five sons and four daughters). But PG’s parents were both a bit rebellious, and when Florette Seligman married Benjamin Guggenheim in 1894, they began to distance themselves from their birth families. They set themselves up in grand style in Manhattan, yet by the time Florette gave birth to their third daughter in 1903, they had also grown distant from one another. Then Benjamin went off the Paris, where instead of achieving independence he ended up squandering much of his inheritance in ill-advised investments.

Truth being stranger than fiction, Benjamin Guggenheim literally sank with the Titanic on April 15, 1912, leaving Florette alone with her daughters in somewhat precarious financial circumstances. Benjamin’s brothers—all of whom were extremely wealthy—tried to keep them in the style to which they were accustomed, but as soon as Florette found out, she began downsizing. Perhaps some of the Seligmans also tried to help her, but if so, there is no record of it. So while PG carried a name that seemed to imply great good fortune, she actually had a childhood filled with tragedy and she grew up knowing she would always be thought of as an object of pity.

To everyone’s surprise, PG embraced her fate and turned it into a badge of honor. Rather than live as a “poor relation,” PG cast herself as a “black sheep,” and moved to Paris in 1920 at age 22. For the next twenty years, PG lived at the edge of Europe’s avant-garde. Name almost any famous person who passed through Paris in those years—artists and writers, intellectuals and gadflies—and it’s likely he or she supped at PG’s table. She loved their creative energy; they loved her money. It may not have been much money from her relatives’ perspective, but from a bohemian’s point of view, PG had it all.

And so, as the Nazis began their “rape of Europe” in 1939, PG was perfectly positioned to achieve her destiny as the savior of Modern Art. By the time of her death in 1979, PG had amassed one of the world’s greatest collections of 20th Century paintings, sculptures, and other works of “fine art.” Along with her purchases, she also provided direct financial support to those once-famous who had fallen on hard times (e.g., Emma Goldman) and those who might never have become famous without her (e.g., Jackson Pollock).

And in the end, she also healed strained family relations by donating her collection—The Peggy Guggenheim Collection—to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. For its part, the Foundation affirmed in a recent press release that it “has worked to make the name of Peggy Guggenheim and the renown of her achievements more celebrated than ever before and will continue to ensure that Peggy Guggenheim’s collection is honored and preserved.”

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is one of my favorite documentary films of 2015. Once I was introduced to her by filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland, I couldn’t get enough. I ended up reading both versions of her autobiography (the randy original from 1946 and the cleaned-up version released in 1960), the new biography Peggy Guggenheim – The Shock of the Modern by Francine Prose (published last year in Yale University Press’s prestigious “Jewish Lives” series), “The Cicerone” (a short story published in a Mary McCarthy collection called Cast a Cold Eye in which a fictionalized Peggy appears), and A Not So Still Life (the memoir published by her step-son Jimmy Ernst in 1984 in which a very real Peggy appears).

Then I re-watched Pollock (the film released by Ed Harris in 2000 in which he plays Jackson Pollock, Amy Madigan plays Peggy Guggenheim, and Marcia Gay Harden plays Pollock’s very Jewish wife Lee Krasner). Then I re-watched Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict a second time, and knowing so much more about her, I loved Vreeland’s film even more.

In her own way, PG—the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of German-speaking Jewish immigrants from Europe—lived in defiance of Hitler and his murderous assault on everything precious to Western Civilization. He lost. She won. And through her, countless cultural treasures have been preserved for future generations. May her memory be for blessing.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict opens Friday, Jan. 8 at the Music Box Theatre on Southport. For showtimes, call (773) 871-6604. To purchase tickets, click HERE to visit the Music Box website.

© Jan Lisa Huttner for JUF Online (1/8/16)

PeggyBed

Top Photo: Peggy Guggenheim at her New York Gallery Art of This Century.

Middle Photo #1: Peggy in her bedroom in Venice with some of her dogs. Note "headboard" designed for her by Alexander Calder.

Middle Photo #2: Peggy today--laid to rest with her dogs--in Venice. (This JPG was found on Wiki Commons.)

Bottom Photo: Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim (1898-1979) and her first husband Lawrence Vail (1891-1968) with their children Pegeen Vail Hélion Rumney (1925-1967) and Michael C. Vail aka Sindbad (1923-1986).

Photos courtesy of filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

RealToReelTzivi

Peggy Guggenheim's personal life was filled with tragedy, so much so that the writer in me cannot resist pointing out the obvious: her father's death on the Titanic was merely the tip of the iceberg.

Her mother Florette--who married a man she loved only to have him abandon her less than a decade later--seems to have withdrawn herself as an active presence in family life thereafter. Her older sister Benita--who seems to have provided the only source of warmth she knew as a child--died (in childbirth) in 1927. Her younger sister--who seems to have been mentally ill--was unable to offer any consolation.

So PG turned instead to a series of men who collectively exemplified an era aptly named "The Roaring 20s." Every one of them drank to excess and then betrayed her with other lovers and even physically assaulted her. Her first marriage--to Lawrence Vail--was a disaster which produced two children with whom she never quite bonded. Her second marriage--to Max Ernst--was even worse, but did bring a step-son into her life--Jimmy Ernst--who seems to have been one of the few people who had genuine affection for her as a person. In the end, she surrounded herself with dogs, and asked to be buried alongside them when she died. Pguggenheimgrave

But from my POV, all these personal facts made PG who she was, and ironically gave her the fortitude to be who she needed to be when she finally came into her own after her mother's death in 1937 (when PG was ~ 40). No matter what anyone says about her--no matter what she says about herself--the proof is in her remarkable legacy.

Lisa Immordino Vreeland's great contribution to this legacy is twofold. First, she shows us the depth and breadth of the physical objects PG collected (from paintings and sculptures to earrings and other "fine art" tchotchkes like her Calder headboard). Second, she literally walks us through the sublime spaces PG designed to display them, most especially her Manhattan gallery Art of This Century on West 57th Street, her Manhattan apartment on East 61st Street (the place for which Jackson Pollock painted his famously odd-sized mural in 1943), and her Venice palazzo. No book--no matter how beautifully produced--can equal this intimate audience experience.

AND NOW A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST

In addition to her great assemblage of "talking heads," Vreeland also allows PG to speak for herself in extensive excerpts from the tapes Jacqueline Bograd Weld made when she interviewed PG for her 1986 biography Peggy: The Wayward Guggenheim. But beware: PG is very cagey and she is an extremely unreliable narrator!

Easy enough to sound blasé about the Nazi Terror in the 1980s--when it was all "ancient" history--but her actions during the war years indicate that she was fully aware of the danger to herself, her family, and her world (which was composed of many Jews as well as people married to Jews and people parented by Jews). She may not have made "a Jewish home" as the wife of Lawrence Vail, but she certainly knew that from the Nazi POV her children were Jewish because she was Jewish, and she was careful to get everyone she could back to the USA in the summer of 1941 (that is after the fall of Paris in June 1940 but well before the USA entered WWII as a combatant in December 1941).

And although Vreeland doesn't mention this, Prose discusses the fact that PG worked directly with Varian Fry to rescue artists like Marc Chagall who had made their way to Marseille. My guess is that it is no accident that she bonded with Jimmy Ernst later in part because he had lost his own mother in Auschwitz.

AND NOW A FEW WORDS ABOUT FEMINISM

PG lived most of her life in a pre-Feminist era, and I don't know if she ever spoke out on the subject directly. But part of her legacy is the direct financial support she gave to women writers. Next to Emma Goldman, the most famous of them now is Djuna Barnes (who--like Mary McCarthy--had scathing things to say about PG later but actually dedicated Nightwood to her at the time of its publication in 1937).

And as Vreeland certainly notes in her film, when the Art of This Century gallery did an exhibit devoted to women (the most famous of whom now are Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo), it was the first of its kind. There's even a nice little interview with Robert De Niro who remembers traveling to Venice to see the paintings by his mother--Virginia Admiral--in PG's collection. PG welcomed him in because he was Virginia's son long before the world came to know him as an Oscar-winning actor.

Performance artist Marina Abramović is also on hand to tell Vreeland just how unique and important this support for women artists was at a time when when most women artists were disparaged by arbiters with the power to make and break careers (almost every one of whom--of course--was male).

AND NOW THE LAST "LAST WORDS" GO TO LEE KRASNER

PG did not have an easy relationship with Lee Krasner, and as far as I know, there are no paintings by Krasner in PG's collection. They were two intensely passionate and extraordinarily intelligent Jewish women--both underestimated by the world in which they lived--who probably had more in common than either of them would ever have admitted. And yet, they somehow pooled their talents and resources to make Jackson Pollock--mentally ill and often hopelessly drunk--into the "bridge figure" of 20th Century Modernism.

So it's fitting that, in the end, it is Lee Krasner who says it best in the epigram which appears after the title page of Francine Prose's book Peggy Guggenheim – The Shock of the Modern:

"In writing about Peggy, it's important to listen to one's own instincts. Don't listen to critics. What do they know? What one should say about Peggy is, simply, that she did it. That no matter what her motivations were, she did it."

Real-to-Reel Addendum © Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (1/11/16)

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SON OF SAUL

Geza"Therefore choose life." There are a whole lot of commandments--not to mention rules, regulations, exhortations, prescriptions, proscriptions etc, etc--in the Hebrew Bible, but I was taught that this was number one. Even during periods as extreme as the Spanish Inquisition, one should always choose Life. Pull down the shades, light the candles, and say the Shema in the privacy of your own home... but in public, choose Life!

So I am more than a little astonished that both of New York's film critics groups--NYFCC (New York Film Critics Circle) and NYFCO (New York Film Critics Online)--have selected Son of Saul--a film about a Jewish man who deliberately chooses death over life--as the Best Foreign Language Film of 2015. I mean really: If you can't find Jewish film critics in New York...

The Saul in Son of Saul is a Hungarian Jew  named "Saul Ausländer" (Géza Röhrig) who finds himself in Auschwitz in October, 1944. Saul is a member of the 12th Sonderkommando. For some people, this fact may not mean much, but for those of us who have spent a significant portion of our lives learning about the Holocaust, it means a great deal. It means that Saul is at the very time and place when people in the most horrific of circumstances--men and women--found the courage, strength and determination to subvert their Nazi assassins by blowing up Crematorium #3.

As the opening crawl explains "Sonderkommandos were work units made up of Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed almost entirely of Jews who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust." [Note that these are actually words from Wikipedia, but the words in the opening crawl of Son of Saul are almost identical.] The additional information--that Saul Ausländer is a member of the 12th Sonderkommando and that the time is October, 1944--indicate that Saul Ausländer--protagonist? maybe. hero? definitely not.--was a bit player in the Nazi liquidation of Hungarian Jewry--one of the largest and most infamous mass murders in human history.

The first part of Son of Saul is a stunning recreation of the Auschwitz Death Factory, and director László Nemes and his co-screenwriter Clara Royer should certainly be commended for the care and attention they have given to getting this part right. The term "Concentration Camp" is now used so loosely that many people never realize that in addition to "Concentration Camps," "Work Camps," "Slave Labor Camps," and "Prisoner of War Camps" (all of which--to the shame of mankind--have been seen in other times and other places), the Nazis also ran several "Death Factories" in which the only "labor" performed was the mass production of millions of corpses (usually by gassing), followed by the processing of these millions of corpses (usually by burning) after all their possessions--typically including the gold in their teeth--had been confiscated.

The other Vernichtungslager--Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka--were pure Death Factories. ["Unlike other Nazi concentration camps across German-occupied Europe, in which prisoners were used as forced labour for the German war effort, death camps (Vernichtungslager) like Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór had only one function: to kill those sent there."] But the case of Auschwitz is complicated by the fact that every kind of awful activity happened within the barbed wire of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex. People of many nationalities worked there. People of many nationalities were exterminated there. People of many nationalities died there of abuse, exhaustion, and disease.

Nevertheless, in the part of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex in which Saul Ausländer worked, the job was to accomplish "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question" ["systematically exterminate the Jewish population in Nazi-occupied Europe through genocide"] and to the extent that Son of Saul shows that Saul Ausländer worked in a Death Factory modeled on any other industrial manufacturing enterprise--say, for example, a steel mill--it has performed a valuable service. As horrible as conditions may have been in the Interment Camps in which American citizens of Japanese Descent were held after Pearl Harbor, and horrible as conditions may be in Gaza today, the label "Death Factory" does not apply, and by showing us how a Death Factory actually operated, Nemes and Royer have made this abundantly clear to anyone who actually watches Son of Saul.

But then the plot kicks in... And the second half of Son of Saul undercuts almost everything that was accomplished in the first half. Nemes and Royer are not content to show us the hell in which Saul Ausländer--and men like him--actually labored. They feel compelled to give us a wider view. So they create a narrative thread that puts him in just the right place at just the right time to see more parts of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex than anyone in Saul Ausländer's position could possibly have witnessed with his own eyes. When the subject is Auschwitz, use of this cinematic trope--well-known from earlier films like Forrest Gump and  Zelig--is a shonda (Yiddish for shame/scandal).

Worse even than the degree to which they play on the emotions of their audience (with a bogus story about a father who wants to bury his son), Nemes and Royer betray the true story of those who participated in the well-documented events of October, 1944. These individuals--whose names are by and large unknown--destroyed a key component of the infrastructure the Nazis had built specifically to kill Jews. Did any Jews survive because there were fewer ovens? We will never know. What we do know is that no matter how many times they were begged to do so, the Allies refused to bomb the train tracks that were also a necessary part of the same infernal infrastructure. Only the Jews of the 12th Sonderkommando succeeded. May their memories be for blessing.

Appel

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (12/24/15)

Top Photo: Géza Röhrig as "Saul Ausländer."

Bottom Photo: Members of the 12th Sonderkommando line up to be counted. We know they are members of a Sonderkommando because the red X signifies they are not to be killed in the "ordinary course of events." They are only to be killed once the Nazis decide they have outlived their usefulness...

Photo Credits © 2015 LaoKoon

 

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The Fifth BW FIDDLER

The DreamAfter a month of previews, Broadway's fifth Fiddler on the Roof premiered today at the Broadway Theatre at 1681 Broadway (on the corner of 53rd Street).

This is the final event – some might even say the culminating event – in the worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Fiddler’s first Broadway performance in 1964. So nu, what’s new?

First of all, Fiddler on the Roof is indestructible! There is no way not to fall in love all over again the moment the Fiddler begins to play that haunting opening melody on his solo violin. Composer Jerry Bock – who died in 2010 – brought forth these twenty-four pure notes from the depths of our collective experience as Jews, and no matter how many times you hear the wordless “Fiddler’s Theme” that opens and closes every performance, tears will spring to your eyes. (I say this as someone who has now seen over two dozen live performances of Fiddler on the Roof – of every size and scale – in the past decade alone.)

But this Anatevka has an altogether very different feel than the one conjured up on Broadway for the 40th anniversary. In 2004, Tevye and his family lived at the edge of an elegant blue and beige birch forest, with actual musicians in the far right corner of the stage playing their instruments in a permanently star-filled twilight. The resulting air of melancholy has been replaced in 2015 with a robust, earthy look that provides a solid frame for the characters as the plot unfolds.

Most important, all the “buildings” – like Tevye’s house and Motel’s tailor shop – can be rolled offstage in an instant to make room for dancing. And wow, is there dancing!

Although the headliner is Danny Burstein as Tevye, the real star of this show is Hofesh Shechter. Born in Jerusalem in 1975, Shechter joined the Batsheva Dance Company at age 20 and quickly rose to become one of artistic director Ohad Naharin’s go to choreographers. Those of us who have attended one of Batsheva Dance Company’s many Chicago performances know what to expect. There is nothing “delicate” about the Batsheva Dance Company style. It is ferocious, defiant, and extremely athletic. Although he has clearly “based” his work on Jerome Robbins original choreography, Shechter transforms it into something entirely new. Do men still line up to do “The Bottle Dance” at Tzeitel’s Wedding? Of course. Have they ever done it like this before? Never!

Unfortunately, there is a downside: Shechter’s dances – especially the dancing to To Life! in the tavern – are literally show-stoppers, meaning they stop the dramatic action rather than enhance it. Some familiar elements have also been trimmed to accommodate them, which has a noticeable effect on the plot. The Rabbi no longer dances at Tzeitel’s Wedding (which is always a crowd-pleaser). And Act Two’s ethereal Little Chavele ballet is now a shadow of its former self, so what should be a profoundly human moment for Tevye as a father has been robbed of its power.

But these are the quibbles of someone who has made the analysis of subtle little Fiddler details her life’s work. As I said at the beginning, Fiddler on the Roof is indestructible. Each new team must have the freedom to make its own creative decisions and find its own balance between the old and the new. Continuously updating “tradition” is exactly what keeps Fiddler on the Roof so fresh at fifty and beyond!

Fiddler on the Roof is now playing at the Broadway Theatre at 1681 Broadway (between 52nd and 53rd Streets). To order tickets, call the box office at (212) 239-6200, or visit the website: http://fiddlermusical.com/. (But if you are putting together a group, then contact GroupSales@Telecharge.com.)

© Jan Lisa Huttner. Posted on JUF Online on 12/21/15.

QuibblesTzivi

Per above, I am definitely recommending the 5th Broadway Revival, but for the record, here are some of my concerns (in order of importance).

1.) I did not like Michael Yeargan's set design. Click on photo below to take a closer look at this scene set in Motel's Tailor Shop:

Sewing Machine

First, notice how everything on stage happens in front of a white brick wall. Second, notice how the town of Anatevka seems to sit on top of the characters. I don't understand this set design at all. The white brick wall calls attention to itself. What does it represent? Is it a foreshadowing of the Warsaw Ghetto and other Holocaust locations? If so, why? And why are the houses so big and stolid? They feel too dense; these houses seem to be weighing the people down, blocking their view of the sky and trapping them inside Anatevka.

I know most people don't notice the set design, but nevertheless, it conveys a feel, and the feel in this case is very earth-bound. Gone are all of the luminous references to the spiritual world Boris Aronson created for Jerome Robbins. The only hint of Chagall left on stage are the masks worn by various characters in the Dream scene. People familiar with Chagall's work will notice specific faces in the crowd (such as the face of The Red Jew), otherwise Chagall has gone MIA (Missing in Action).

2.) Another thing to notice about this scene set in Motel's Tailor Shop is how many men are onstage... and how few women. To generate excitement in his big dance numbers (most specifically at the tavern and at the beginning of Tzeitel's Wedding), Hofesh Shechter needs lots of dancers, and all of these dancers are costumed and presented as men. The two dance numbers that feature women--specifically at the end of Tzeitel's wedding and during the Little Chavele ballet--are both truncated. That means Bartlett Sher has more male figures in his cast than female figures, and this imbalance is palpable in all the crowd scenes (even though some of the dancers costumed as men are actually women).

3.) Tevye's daughters--especially Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava--should be the drivers of the action, and yet after the Matchmaker, Matchmaker scene at the very beginning, they are practically pushed to the sidelines. The Hodel/Perchik duet Now I Have Everything is also staged much too much like Miracle of Miracles, with Hodel basically applauding Perchik (just as Tzeitel applauds Motel), rather than participating in the decision-making as Perchik's equal.

The music in Now I Have Everything is written so that Hodel and Perchik literally finish each other's sentences ("Who knows tomorrow where our home will be? I'll be with you and that's home enough for me. Everything is right at hand. Simple and clear/Simple and clear.") Rush it, and that magic is lost...

ON THE OTHER HAND...

Bartlett Sher has added a subtle but significant framing story.

In the opening moments, Danny Burstein as Tevye walks on stage wearing a red parka that looks like something to be found in a Land's End catalogue. The stage is completely bare except for a ancient railway sign reading "Anatevka" (in Cyrillic characters). Burstein is carrying a book, and he reads aloud from the book: "A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?" These words, words typically spoken by an early 20th Century character named "Tevye" directly to his audience, are now read by a 21st Century character. But what book is he reading from?

I am sure most people think they know. I am sure most people will immediately answer: "Tevye is reading from Sholem Aleichem!" But these people will be wrong. The words that most closely approximate these words were in fact written by Marc Chagall and they appear on the final page of his autobiography My Life:

"These pages [of this autobiography] have the same meaning as a painted surface. If there were a hiding place in my pictures, I would slip them into it... Or perhaps they would cling to the back of one of my characters or maybe to the trousers of the 'Musician' in my mural painting?... Who can know what is written on his back?... And were not the forewarnings in our plastic art right--since we are truly up in the air and suffer from one malady only--the hankering for stability."

(Although Chagall has added "Moscow, 1922" at the very bottom of this last page, the book itself was published decades later, in Russian in 1947, in French in 1957, and in English--translated from the French by Elisabeth Abbott--in 1960.)

And, in fact, Sher has directed costume designer Catherine Zuber to dress his 2015 Fiddler in a vibrant purple coat that echoes Chagall's canvases--both the original Music mural from 1920 referred to above by Chagall himself (which is now in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow) and the copy Chagall did a few years later called Green Violinist (which has long been owned by the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan).

As Burstein continues with Tevye's prologue, he slowly changes from the red parka to a more traditional Tevye costume. Then "The Fiddler" (Jesse Kovarsky) flies across the stage like Peter Pan, summoning the rest of the cast as if from the mists of time, and Tevye joins them in the center of the stage for the opening number "Tradition!"

Three plus hours later--at the very end--Tevye reappears in his red parka as the Jews of Anatevka begin their exile. (See this photo by Sara Krulwich of the New York Times .) These displaced people--Tevye among them--now remind us of all the refugees in 2015 who are also searching for safe new homes. And The Fiddler is there with them--still in his purple coat--to play those magical twenty-four notes one last time...

Addendum © Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (12/22/15)

Fiddler on the Roof Broadway Theatre •DANNY BURSTEIN DANNY BURSTEIN (Tevye) Danny is a 5-time Tony Award nominee whose 15 Broadway credits include: Cabaret (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations); The Snow Geese; Golden Boy (2013 Tony and Outer Critics Circle nominations); Follies (2012 Tony, Astaire & Grammy Award nominations; Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards); Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; South Pacific (Tony and Drama Desk nominations, Outer Critics Circle Award); The Drowsy Chaperone (Tony and Ovation Award nominations); Saint Joan; The Seagull; Three Men on a Horse; A Little Hotel on the Side; The Flowering Peach; A Class Act; Titanic and Company. Off-Broadway credits include: Talley’s Folly (Lucille Lortel & Drama League nominations); Mrs. Farnsworth; Psych; All in the Timing; Merrily We Roll Along; Weird Romance and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Film/TV includes: The Family Fang (directed by Jason Bateman); Blackhat (directed by Michael Mann); Lolly Steinman on “Boardwalk Empire” (directed by Martin Scorsese); “Louie;” Transamerica; “Absolutely Fabulous;” “Ed;” all the “Law & Order” series; “Hope & Faith;” Deception; Affluenza; American Milkshake; Nor’easter; Construction; Liv and Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon. He recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Frosch in the Jeremy Sams/Douglas Carter Beane production of Die Fledermaus. JESSICA HECHT ALIX KOREY ADAM DANNHEISSER ADAM KANTOR KARL KENZLER SAMANTHA MASSELL MELANIE MOORE NICK REHBERGER ALEXANDRA SILBER GEORGE PSOMAS JULIE BENKO ERIC BOURNE AUSTIN GOODWIN JACOB GUZMAN REED LUPLAU BRANDT MARTINEZ SARAH PARKER JONATHAN ROYSE WINDHAM JENNY ROSE BAKER HAYLEY FEINSTEIN BEN RAPPAPORT MICHAEL C. BERNARDI ADAM GRUPPER MITCH GREENBERG JEFFREY SCHECTER “SHECKY” JESSE KOVARSKY ERIC BOURNE STEPHEN CARRASCO ERIC CHAMBLISS LORI WILNER JESSICA VOSK JENNIFER ZETLAN TESS PRIMACK MARLA PHELAN MATT MOISEY SILVIA VRSKOVA AARO

Top Photo: Tevye (Danny Burstein) and Golde (Jessica Hecht) are haunted by Fruma Sarah (Jessica Vosk) in the Dream scene.

Middle Photo: Motel (Adam Kantor) and Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) in the scene celebrating the arrival of Motel's new sewing machine.

Bottom Photo: Jesse Kovarsky as "The Fiddler" in the finale.

Photo Credits © Joan Marcus. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

BeforeActTwo

PS: I took this photo on 12/9/15 at the Broadway Theatre during the intermission between Act One & Act Two... It's a huge theatre and every seat was filled :-)

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KARSKI & THE LORDS OF HUMANITY

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.40.31 PMTold through a combination of live footage and animated illustration, Slawomir Grunberg’s Karski & the Lords of Humanity brings to life the story of one man’s courageous efforts to share the atrocities facing Poland’s Jews during World War II. (EML: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Eliana Levenson

Using live footage from Claude Lanzmann’s comprehensive Holocaust documentary “Shoah,” Grunberg opens with Jan Karski himself, explaining how he tried to shut out the horrors he saw and reported on for 35 years. It is clear from the way he speaks and his body language that the things he witnessed still haunt him to this day. To others, Karski’s silence on his role in the war is one of modesty but, for Karski, perhaps it is also a coping mechanism.

Born in Poland at the end of World War I, Karski was studying to be a diplomat when the Germans invaded. Using his multilingual skills, he became a spy for the Polish underground government, resisting the Nazi takeover. As a spy, Karski was captured, beaten nearly to death and escaped, but still he did not wish to abandon his role in the rebellion against the Nazis.

The war raged on and the Jewish people’s suffering remained invisible to the outside world. Then, the Polish underground called on Karski to meet with Jewish leaders so that they might share their story with someone who could make a difference.  Karski accepted the task and agreed to bring the plight of the Jews to the Allied governments. It was to be his first hand recounting that would save the Jews from total extermination.

Karski’s account is supplemented with live footage, adding a powerful urgency to his story. How could people not have known that the Jews lay dying in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto? That they were being shot down like animals by young boys with a Swatzika emblazoned on their arms? Even after all these years, Karski’s voice still breaks as he recounts the inhumane acts he volunteered to witness.

After witnessing both the tragedies of the ghetto and the hoScreen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.40.26 PMrrors of a death camp, Karski traveled to England and the United States to share what he had seen with the Allies. It was his mission to inform the Allies so that they could step in, not to end the war, but to prevent the total extermination of the Jews. His accounts were met with a mixture of reactions from sympathy to laughter to pure disbelief. It was hard for a world that had no physical evidence of such inhumane acts to trust that the Nazis were truly capable of committing such evils.

While both Churchill and Roosevelt were sympathetic, fear of being seen as entering the war purely to save the Jews caused them to react without conviction to stopping Hitler’s Final Solution.

Jan Karski’s voice breaks as he admits that he felt like a failure when the UK and the US did not implement direct plans to end the genocide against the Jews. If he had stayed in Poland, physically helping Jews to flee as the Polish underground government did, would he not have saved more lives? Yet, as those who have studied his courage and bravery are quick to explain, Karski’s efforts were instrumental in ensuring that the Jewish problem was not invisible and that their suffering was not silent.

As someone who has studied Judaism for most of my life, I was shocked that I had never heard of Jan Karski or the risks he took to try and warn the world of the Holocaust. Karski was a man of courage, who took on the plight of the Jews, putting his own life in jeopardy to carry the message of Jewish suffering to those who had the power to do more.

Grunberg seamlessly integrates the interview footage of Karski with photography and videos taken by the Nazis and tops it off with reenactments via illustrated animation to bring life to Karski’s smooth retelling of his life story. Overall, this documentary serves as a powerful reminder of the atrocities that faced a people and how dangerously close these horrors came to being kept a secret.

© Eliana M. Levenson FF2 Media (12/14/15)Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.40.17 PM

Top Photo: The poster for the film showing Karski’s poise and power as a young man.

Middle Photo: A still of Jan Karski from the “Shoah” footage integrated into the documentary.

Bottom Photo: An example of the illustrated animations throughout the film. In this instance, Karski is recounting his experience watching the Jews unloaded from cattle cars at an extermination camp.

Photo Credits: Log TV Ltd

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THE BIG SHORT

Steve Carell--in a transformative performance--stars as "Mark Baum," the moral center in a riveting story about the the “Subprime Mortgage Crisis” of 2008.

Director Adam McKay and his co-writer Charles Randolph have based their screenplay on The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (the non-fiction best-seller published by Michael Lewis in 2010). The result is an instant classic and the Best Film of 2015. (JLH: 5/5)

Review by Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

The Big Short -- the best film of 2015 -- opens in limited release today in most major American markets including Chicago.

I say “the best” with confidence because I have now seen almost all of 2016’s Oscar contenders. It’s true! I have attended innumerable private screenings in the past two months as a member of New York Film Critics Online, and my Brooklyn apartment is flooded with “For Your Consideration” screeners from all the major distributors. When the Golden Globe nominations were announced yesterday, there was only one top film on the list that I hadn’t seen -- The Revenant -- and that’s only because I had the flu the night of my NYFCO screening.

Based on The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, the non-fiction best-seller published by Michael Lewis in 2010 which inspired the screenplay by director Adam McKay and his co-writer Charles Randolph, The Big Short uses bravura filmmaking techniques to tell one of the most important stories of our era: the collapse of worldwide financial markets in 2008.

We refer to this now as the “Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” as if it were over and done. But reverberations are still evident in almost every country on this planet, especially our own (embroiled as we already are in one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history). When the dominoes began to fall midway through the film and one character said to another “This thing is hitting Europe. Greece and Iceland are finished. Spain is teetering,” chills ran up and down my spine.

So it is important for us to strap ourselves into a careening car on this wild rollercoaster, and give ourselves over to those with the talent and skill to explain how we got here. Luckily, McKay and Randolph lay it out for us in bite-sized pieces, with tremendous support from film editor Hank Corwin (the MVP on their huge and phenomenal team).

The plot (the cast of which includes major stars like Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Marisa Tomei as well as up-and-comers like Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong and Finn Wittrock) follows four sets of idiosyncratic outsiders, all of whom sensed that something was deeply wrong with the Housing Bubble. So they bought insurance on bonds everyone else considered totally secure. The title The Big Short refers to the fact that they “shorted” the market when everyone else went long, but hey, let Margot Robbie explain it!

Margot Robbie is the gorgeous actress who played Leonardo DiCaprio’s trophy wife in The Wolf of Wall Street two years ago. “Here is Margot Robbie to explain,” says narrator “Jared Vennett” (Ryan Gosling). Cut to Margot Robbie (the real Margot Robbie). Sipping champagne in a bathtub filled with bubbles, Robbie is the epitome of decadence (just as her character was in The Wolf of Wall Street). “Short means bet against. Got it? Now get lost.”

This scene serves multiple purposes for the audience. It relaxes us and gives us a laugh, and it also cushions us from all the jargon to come. This is important because jargon was one of the primary weapons used to defraud investors like us and the people who were supposedly acting in our interest (like our pension fund managers). Acronyms like “CDO” buzzed around us like bees. Collateralized Debt Obligation? Say what?

But using Margot Robbie as the first of several celebrity explainers is also an arch way for McKay and Randolph to signal that “the wolf” in The Wolf of Wall Street turned out to be a chump, whereas the guys who looked like sheep were the ones who actually succeeded. In the end, as big-name financial institutions like AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers implode, the “insiders” who considered themselves “players” are all turned out.

Insofar as this mess has a moral center, it belongs to a Jewish guy introduced early on by his Rabbi. “Mark is an excellent student of the Torah and the Talmud,” the Rabbi tells Mark’s beaming mother. When she fails appreciate his concern, the Rabbi continues: “He’s looking for inconsistencies in the word of God!”

Mark is a character named “Mark Baum” who is closely modeled on a real person named Steve Eisman, and this anecdote comes directly from Eisman’s mother Lillian. It can be found in the first chapter of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, almost verbatim.

“Mark Baum” (like Steve Eisman) was the head of a hedge fund called FrontPoint Partners. One day a guy from Deutsche Bank named “Jared Vennett” (the Ryan Gosling character based on another real person named Gregg Lippmann) called the wrong number and ended up making a pitch to Baum and his core team members, numbers guy Vinny Daniel (whose actual name really is Vincent Daniel) and trader Danny Moses (whose actual name really is Daniel Moses). This fluke leads to the beginning of FrontPoint Partners’ involvement. They know Vennett is only looking out for “number one” -- as Vennett later admits, “I never said I was the hero of this story” -- but his mere appearance signals to them that the waters are far murkier than they realized.

Even though Baum is inherently skeptical, the more he learns, the more anxious he becomes. He sends his guys down to Miami in 2006 to look at a pricey new housing development, and it turns out to be a ghost town. He travels with them to the American Securitization Forum in 2007, and finds thousands of people partying with no thoughts of tomorrow. Breaking the fourth wall, Vennett tells us: “It was at that moment in that dumb restaurant in Las Vegas with that stupid look on his face that Mark Baum realized the whole world economy might collapse.” Soon after, Baum says to his wife: “It’s all so much uglier and more twisted than I could have imagined.” “Stop trying to save the world,” she says. But he can’t.

Mark Baum is played by Steve Carell in a transformative performance that raises him to the rank of one of the greatest actors of his generation (a remarkable feat for someone who got his start as a Second Banana in “bromance” comedies). Carell totally owns the climactic scene in which Baum is invited to debate a bullish investor from Bear Stearns at the very moment Bear Stearns stock goes into freefall. While Vinny tracks the numbers on his BlackBerry, Baum puts the whole debacle in perspective: “For 15,000 years, fraud and short-sighted thinking have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually people get caught. Things go south. When the hell did we forget all that?”

*************************

The Big Short opens today in limited release at the AMC River East and the Regal City North on Western Ave. Suburban locations include Bolingbrook, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Lake Zurich, Lincolnshire, Skokie, and Woodridge. The Big Short will expand to additional Metro Chicago theatres on Dec. 23.

© Jan Lisa Huttner/Posted on JUF Online on 12/11/15.

THE BIG SHORT

Top Photo: Steve Carell as Mark Baum.

Bottom Photo (from left): Rafe Spall as "Danny Moses," Jeremy Strong as "Vinny Daniel," Steve Carell as "Mark Baum," and Ryan Gosling as "Jared Vennett."

Photos Credit:  Jaap Buitendijk/Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Posted on JUF Online on 12/11/15.

Q: Does The Big Short pass the Bechdel Test?

No!

Although Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei plays Mark Baum's wife, and award-winning actress Melissa Leo has a key scene as a bond rater, these are both bit parts. There are a few more female characters around the edges--including, of course, celebrity "explainers" Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez--but they all have minimal dialogue and they certainly never speak with one another.

Me? I think one of the reasons the Subprime Mortgage Crisis became so catastrophic is that a "Boys Will Be Boys" mentality not only pervaded Wall Street... but all the other international stock markets as well (and even more so).

Folks, this is what happens when men--and only men--rule the world :-(

RealToReelTzivi

Although the film version of The Big Short is an extremely faithful adaptation of Michael Lewis's 2010 best-seller The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, director Adam McKay and his co-screenwriter Charles Randolph do take some liberties with the personal stories of some of the main characters. Most significantly, there is no historical person named "Mark Baum" (the Steve Carell character), and there is no historical person named "Ben Ricket" (the Brad Pitt character).

As explained above, the Mark Baum character is based on a real person named Steve Eisman. Similarly, the Ben Ricket character is based on a real person named Ben Hackett. Although some of the personal details in the lives of both men have been changed in the film, the professional details of both lives are spot on. And what they told Michael Lewis about their professional activities come directly from them and their closest associates. Ditto for "Jamie Shipley" (who's real name is Jamie Mai) and "Charlie Geller" (who's real name is Charlie Ledley).

In the acknowledgements section of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Lewis thanks the following individuals by name (in the following order): Steve Eisman, Michael Burry, Charlie Ledley, Jamie Mai, Vincent Daniel, Danny Moses, Porter Collins, and Ben Hackett.

The only major name missing on Lewis's interview list is Greg Lippman, the historical person broadly played by Ryan Gosling and called "Jared Vennett" in the film. Information about most of the situations in which Lippman/Vennett figured has been supplied--in great detail--by the people Lewis spoke with, however McKay and Randolph also use Jared Vennett as a narrator who pierces the fourth wall and acts as something of a "Master of Ceremonies," so I'm not sure how closely Jared Vennett and Greg Lippman actually overlap as personalities.

On the other hand, all of the information about Dr. Michael Burry (the Christian Bale character) seems to be totally accurate and directly "from the horse's mouth" (so to speak).

For those who sneer that all these guys did was make money for themselves, allow me to point out that Steve Eisman appears to be genuine mensch who has now turned his attention--and much of his money--to the shonda of for-profit colleges that are exploiting people--especially military veterans--with the help of the same US Congress which turned a blind eye to the excesses of the financial markets. He is also a Board Member of an organization called Footsteps "which supports people the process of leaving ultra-Orthodoxy." Just sayin'

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PEGGY GUGGENHEIM (EML)

posterFull Title = Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland examines the life of the great Peggy Guggenheim, an American Jewish woman at the forefront of both the European and American modern art movements. Told in chronological order, the film documents the journey of a woman ahead of her time, willing to risk everything in the interest of following her passion for discovering and sharing modern art. (EML: 3.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Eliana Levenson

Based on new interviews and featuring previously unheard tapes recorded by one of her many biographers (Jacqueline Bograd Weld), Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict paint Peggy Guggenheim as a woman hungry to be a somebody and fearless in her methods for attaining that status.

Starting with Peggy’s childhood, the film explores the difference between Peggy and the rest of her wealthy extended family.  As she ages, Peggy seeks out art and culture, moving to Paris in her twenties and growing close with many of the 20th Century's most notable artists, writers, and intellectuals.

The film is quick to point out that art wasn’t the only thing Peggy was chasing, and her romantic trysts--despite her seeming lack of physical beauty--are part of her legacy. Known for discovering new artists--most especially Jackson Pollock--Peggy’s insatiable appetite to be remembered pushed her to break the rules of 20th Century women.

peggy-guggenheim1

But where is Peggy’s Jewishness? Though a member of two prominent Jewish American families--the Gugenheims and the Seligmans--there is no evidence in the film that Peggy practiced her faith either religiously or culturally. However, the hints of Peggy’s relationship with her Jewishness can be seen in two areas.

Firstly, her reaction to the onset of World War II. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict points out that during the first years of the war--up until 1941--Peggy was living in Paris. Although in her own words she was “unafraid,” Peggy certainly understood her precarious position as a Jew in Nazi-Occupied Europe. She used her prominence and her American citizenship to help persecuted artists--many of them Jews and/or the spouses of Jews--get to New York and thereby escape the threat of the Nazi takeover. It is these acts of bravery that demonstrate the deeply ingrained kinship that Peggy had to her Jewish heritage.

Secondly, Peggy’s nose job, which is discussed only briefly, is indicative of a standard of beauty that often made Jewish women feel excluded. As the film does seem to heavily focus on Peggy’s looks--and the number of lovers she managed to snag in spite of them--the fact that Peggy had a botched nose job seems incredibly relevant. While the documentary emphasizes the fact that Peggy was a promiscuous woman, unafraid to push the boundaries of what was acceptable for a woman of her status, the fact that this bold and brazen woman had attempted to improve her appearance with a nose job reminds you of the pressure Jewish women felt to look more like their gentile counterparts. Still, after the procedure was botched, Peggy’s decision to live with the nose and make it part of her persona, demonstrates her willingness to push boundaries.

While the documentary itself feels more like an AP History powerpoint presentation than a film, the message of Peggy’s lifestyle--both as a woman and a Jew are poignant--reminding us that being yourself can result in an incredible life.

© Eliana M. Levenson FF2 Media (11/9/15)

peggy-guggenheim_3308815bTop Photo: One of the posters for the theatrical release of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Middle Photo: Peggy Guggenheim showing off her unique style, a style she never lost.

Bottom Photo: Peggy amidst negotiations for her priceless collection of modern art in Venice.

Photo Credits: Dakota Group

Q: Does Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Yes!

Many women--artists and authors--are interviewed on camera, and extensive use is made of the Weld tapes (a one-on-on conversations between Peggy Guggenheim and Jacqueline Bograd Weld).

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CFIC ’15: Sweet Home Chicago

ChgoThumbs11/3/15: With Cindy Stern​ at the 2015 CFIC.

Taking a break during our marathon screening of "The Amsalem Trilogy" (To Take a Wife, Shiva and Gett).

Grueling, yes, but this was such a powerful experience that I can only hope to do it again someday :-)

The audiences for all three screenings--even To Take a Wife at 4 PM--were surprisingly large. And from what we could tell when we asked for a show of hands, approximately 100 people came to watch all three films with us. Yowza!!!

Click HERE to read my post in JUF Online and learn why YOU should try to see all three parts of "The Amsalem Trilogy" someday too.WithCindyFB

Huge thanks once again to CFIC Executive Director Cindy Stern & the Board of Directors of the 2015 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema for placing my photo on the same page with such superlative companions. What an honor!

Photo Credit: Bob Stern (Cindy's wonderful husband).

Finally, last but not least, please note my "two thumbs up" in tribute to Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert -- the two incomparable critics who put the Chicago film scene on the international movie map. After three years in Brooklyn, it felt so great to be back in Sweet Home Chicago!

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