Friday, January 16, 2009

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2009 - Day 2

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival graciously sent me a HUGE ENVELOPE of screeners of nearly the ENTIRE festival! (One must be careful for what one asks for!) The festival continues at the LaFont Sandy Springs, until Sunday, January 25, 2009.

GOOD (dir: Vicente Amorim, Germany/UK, 2008, 96 mins.) I have been looking forward to seeing GOOD since I read C.P. Taylor's play nearly 20 years ago! I know it is not a fair comparison, but the character evolution in the play was so theatrically demonstrated with onstage musicians representing his moral descent in Nazi Germany, that I think any translation to the screen would be a disappointment. Even though Viggo Mortensen is typically great, if not brilliant, the script doesn't allow him to plumb the depths of his assimilation into the morals of the Third Reich. It keeps the theatrical conceit of the "music in his head", but it is far from effective, as it is used so sparingly and Mortensen is in the predicament of "commenting" upon what he is hearing. He keeps an objective distance from what is intended to be psychologically overwhelming. The script, which should diagram how a "good" man succumbs to evil, has been adapted to maintain our subject's nature through his self-objectivity. Without allowing him to get "lost in the music", the film loses its power. I was disappointed.

LEMON TREE (dir: Eran Riklis, France/Germany/Israel, 2008, 106 mins.) Featuring a great performance from Hiam Abbass (the love interest in The Visitor), director Eran Riklis, whose earlier work includes The Syrian Bride, again deals with the frustrations of the people facing Israel's bureaucracy. One of the remarkable aspects of Riklis' work (based upon these two films), is that the perspective is inclusive of both cultures that are in conflict, though there is a definite lean against the Israel government. .Hiam Abbass' work keeps her character from becoming pathetic and she shoulders a great deal of responsibility in veering the film from wallowing in cheap sentiment. The cinematography is as clear and simple as the fable it is telling. Considering some of the complex narratives that attempt to tackle Israel's policies, Riklis is able to break it down to a human and emotionally accessible level.

A SECRET (Un Secret) (dir. Claude Miller, France, 2007, 105 mins.)Scheduled at the same time on Saturday is a film that could not be more opposite of LEMON TREE in its complexity. A SECRET, directed by Claude Miller, is a nearly Proustian exercise in a man's exploring his childhood and the lives of his parents, extending his journey to before he was born. It is an exceptional piece, describing the generational effects of The Holocaust. The first act of the film is a mystery that is brilliantly structured. In fact, the cinematic and scripted gymnastics of that first hour can be so thrilling that it leaves the second act to wander a bit, however dramatically justified that might be. It features a large, all star, French cast, including Mattieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), as the biographic explorer. The film's production values are all exceptional! The periods that it crosses are all well defined, which is extremely important considering the first hour of non-linear narrative.

Both LEMON TREE and A SECRET have later screenings, so do not panic about the schedule conflict that they have on their premieres on Saturday night.

Maxxxxx says
re GOOD: "Such a good bird!"
re LEMON TREE: "Breakfast?"
re A SECRET: "Shhhh!"

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