…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Jews

A Film Unfinished


A Film Unfinished documents the story of three mysterious reels found in the mountains of a then East German film archive. These reels bear the title ‘Das Ghetto,’ a propaganda film of the Warsaw ghetto that captures the daily lives of the Jews living there. It also show the wide gap between rich and poor Jews and tries to create a strained relationship between those two groups.

What clarifies the truth within these images is a reenactment of a testimony by one of the German filmmakers documenting the footage – Willy Wist, who admits to how systematic the Nazis were.

ph. unpaidfilmcritic

Another way to shed light into the footage are a handful of elderly Jews who were children in the ghetto years who watch the footage and debunk it. They talk about the inflation and deflation of certain truths into arranged narratives. They clarify that the comfortable dining rooms are owned by twenty or so Jews who were a small part of the thousands who would eat the flowers shown in the footage. In reality, one family had a room, twenty families to a house, the ghettos overcrowded. How The Nazi filmmakers have brought in geese and champagne from the outside to film a banquet scene. But really, only a few can afford what the Germans allowed – horse meat. Children who have smuggled food into the ghetto are shot. Or how one’s mother would wear a colourful coat, keeping her ‘dignity’ despite her hunger. Or disdainfully laugh at a hilariously inaccurate funeral procession scene and circumcision scene.

What’s surprising, however, is how these lies became a bit like the truth. An elder would talk about decent people who would throw their dead family members on the street, one corpse every few meters. The German filmmakers have herded and instructed Jewish passers-by to walk by these corpses, making them look unsympathetic and callous against their own neighbours. This indifference became a way of life, an elder says, a way to keep one’s sanity.

Pardon the ‘final thought,’ and this isn’t the message of the film but what I got from it. Ignoring the homeless and their pleas – guilty as charged here. Letting ourselves be misinformed about people from other races and religions. There are traces of Nazis’ behaviour today.


TIFF 2009 Cheat: Lebanon


(All entries with the heading of ‘TIFF Cheat’ indicate selections from said festival that I couldn’t watch during the festival’s run.)

Lebanon can be separated into two parts. The body of the film is  when we see the film through the eyes of young gunner Shmulik, the new addition to the now team of four young Israeli troops in a tank nicknamed Rhino. The other team members are Asi the irrational commander, Hersel the trash talking loader and Yigal the driver, an only child with elderly parents.

ph. SPC

In Shmulik’s job, he has two options – to kill and cry about it later or not to kill. He does both and fails, either action leading to the deaths of those they’re attacking either from his hands for someone else wearing his uniform. The other men in his team accuse him of shooting or not shooting at the wrong times, and they’re arguably right.

He says he’s tense. He quivers at the sight of destruction left from the day before, and in his defense, he has to look at the destruction caused the day before and he sometimes gets the feeling that the people and animals he’s looking at, alive or dead, look back at him and know his presence inside the tank. The Air Force has attacked a Lebanese town the day before, and the tank’s job is to ‘clean up’ the town. Gamil tells the crew that the clean-up is swift and easy, a promise that, the audience knows, is not kept. Shmulik’s periscopes close-up to disturbed copies of Christian oil paintings that used to hang in people’s homes, followed of course by a woman who lost her daughter, stripped because of a fire in her dress.

In the final act of the film, Shmulik doesn’t share the point of view of the movie, the camera instead is shaking because of a Syrian attack. There’s less light than the earlier parts of the film. The camera closes up on the four young men and their different reactions and futures.

In general, the film hints at the different fates of these men too easily. But with that we also get the most TMI story of a father’s death, a strange act of kindness, and survival with a subtle deus ex-machina. A solid multi-character study all around.


Everything You Always Wanted to Know…


EverythingYouAlwaysWantedToKnow(Not suspicious. ph. OutNow)

An uneven start for Woody Allen. Only two of the segments were really funny. Three if you count the sodomy scene, which was hilarious until it went a little too long. Four if you count the aphrodisiac scene, showing that he can do Marx Brothers better than the Marx Brothers. But that scene has foundations on base humour. But the good outshines the bad.

My favourite sketch would have to be the perverts sketch. The whole movie is full Holy Batman Gene Wilder/Burt Reynolds, but here we have Regis Philbin, looking and sounding the same. It takes a bourgeois and banal approach to sexual perversion, as Regis and the panel take guesses, nobody snickers or passes judgment. Both perverts featured on the show are male – most of the film focuses on male desire and trying to figure out women. The gag is that this show would have never made it on television even if this is the sexy 70’s. Add a masochistic ending involving a Rabbi’s fetish and we have a winner. I don’t know why I love Jewish humour but I do.

EverythingYouAlwaysWantedToKnowAbout(Blow Up)

My other favourite is the female orgasm scene. Woody’s best acting is probably in this movie and this scene, perfectly embodying the cool Italian lover instead of the awkward New Yorker persona that he has. His early career has films showing his take on European auteurs, this time taking on Antonioni but making it hilarious. Sure, the character still has insecurities but those insecurities don’t weigh him down. He and his wife in the scene look good together. She can only reach orgasm in public places, and that’s the only thing we know about her.