Thursday, January 22, 2009

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2009 - Day 7

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.

HOLY LAND HARDBALL (dirs. Erik Kesten and Brett Rapkin, USA, 2008, 84 mins.) This is a documentary, in what I found to be near intricate detail, of the formation of the Israel Baseball League. It is a sport that the natives do not seem to have even heard of, much less how to play, so the influx of participants, from owners to players, are immigrants. There is a lot of material to be covered here, and the film does attempt that. If you are into the minutia that seems to be the heart of baseball. (OK, you can tell, I am not really a fan beyond "sunning in the decks with a beer".) It's a perfectly fine structure for a documentary, but really aimed at the deep seated fan.

DEATH IN LOVE (dir. Boaz Yakin, USA, 2008, 100 mins.) Well, this certainly is a bit of a shocker, considering the cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Josh Lucas and Lukas Haas plays the mother and her sons in a truly disfunctional family. The abuse that Bisset's character received by her neglectful parents, as well as the extreme abuse in a WWII prison (which is so GRAPHICALLY presented to the point it made ME flinch!), has been passed down to her sons. Josh Lucas is a sadomasochist whose proclivities are surprisingly explicitly portrayed. Lukas Haas is the younger son who is neurotically attached to his mother and a piano. In the midst of all of this, there is a little bit of comic relief from Adam Brody, a co-worker in Josh Lucas' model agency scam. Even though it is not a pleasant experience, and there is a lot of unhappy sex and unhappy relationships, the earnest attempts at Oscar-worthy moments of tantrums and self-directed angst keeps it from ever being DULL!

On the other handGRUBER'S JOURNEY (dir. Radu Gabrea, Hungary/Romania, 2008, 100 mins.), is so civilized for the most of its story, that the slow and exceptionally conversation journey into the pogrom of Romania actually makes the final shot and epilogue even more effective. Based on the true life story of Curzio Malaparte (played by Florin Piersic Jr.), an Italian journalist who is suffering from a debilitating allergy, searches for his Jewish specialist that will lead him into the heart of the Romanian departation to the holocaust and inspire him to author Kaputt, considered "perhaps the first important literary treatment of the Holocaust." However, it is a long and static road to that moment. Malaparte must work his way through a labyrinth of records and bureaucracy in trying to find the missing doctor and these scenes are almost all shot in one for the length of the exchange. It feels very "stagebound"; It is stylishly designed and elegantly performed. . However, the are a few cinematic touches that are so sparsingly applied, I think that director Radu Gabrea was only trying to express the internal shock Malaparte was feeling upon discovering the truth behind the exportation of Jews.

Maxxxxx says
re HOLY LAND HARDBALL: "Is it naptime?"
re DEATH IN LOVE: "Such a mean bird!"
RE GRUBER'S JOURNEY: [silently clicking beak]

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