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Thread: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2019

  1. #16
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    CURTIZ (Tamás Yvan Topolánszky 2018)


    TOMÁS YVAN TOPOLÁNSZKY: CURTIZ (2018)





    A drama feature about the director Michael Curtiz, at work on his film, "Casablanca"

    Curtiz is a Hungarian movie - set in Hollywood. The time is 1942 and the prolific Hungarian-born Jewish Warner Brothers contract director Michael Curtiz (né Kertész, like the great photographer) is struggling to complete his one Oscar winner. Perhaps "struggling" isn't the right word. Curtiz, as depicted by the excellent Ferenc Lengyel (who even looks like the director), is a mean, stubborn, cantankerous, utterly confident womanizer. He's only struggling because of studio issues; government observers trying to turn this into wartime American propaganda; and family issues. Curtiz's daughter Kitty (Evelin Dobos), unseen for eighteen years, has turned up to haunt him and he is burdened by his inability to save his sister in Europe from extermination by the Nazis. These issues roil about for the run time of the film.

    The shooting of Casablanca - on several lots at Warner Brothers - seems suspended, which seems appropriate, since Casablanca itself is about people in limbo, waiting.

    Shooting the film as shown here consists mainly of trying to think of alternate endings - what to do with the main characters, whether to include an airplane in the final scene, and so on. And the film, made without a big budget, provides some enjoyable approximations of old style Hollywood sets, one in an airline hangar, and the plane that is all façade is fun.

    The movie ends when Curtiz - though the writers are the Epstein brothers (Yan and Raphael Feldman, not him) comes up with a conclusion. As a strategy, the filmmakers avoid too-obvious references to cliché moments of this very famous film, and keep us from even glimpsing what would only be disappointing approximations of Bergman and Bogart.

    First-time director Tomas Yvan Topolanszky deserves a lot of credit for several things. Everything is shot in rich contrasty black and white with velvety blacks and beautiful angular lights and shadows, figures shot into the light, rimmed with brightness, beams shooting down from high above at an angle. This visual style, thanks to the set designers and the cinematographer, is glamorous and pleasing to the eye. It's not the look of the actual Casablanca , which I remember as softer and rich in pale grays, but it's probably not meant to be. What is Topolanszky trying to do? He has explained in an interview that Andrew Vajna, the Hungarian-American producer (who has a pivotal role in Hungarian movies) had called for a film about "notable Hungarian people," which for the young director narrowed down to Curtiz or photojournalist Robert Capa. Easier to shoot on a studio lot than roam battlefields, so Curiz won out.

    Jack Warner (Andrew Hefler), Hal Wallis (Scott Alexander Young), a Hungarian colleague, and various underlings are brought in to give the impression that we're really at Warner Brothers. There's arguing over what to do with the German officer character, played by Konrad Veidt (Christopher Krieg). The pivotal outsider, though, is the US government propaganda advisor, Johnson, played by Irish actor Declan Hannigan. He constantly tries to manipulate the action of the movie to make it what he thinks will best fan American enthusiasm for the war. Curtiz firmly resists and rejects calls to patriotism. To Johnson's question, "Do you love your country?" He rejoins, "Which one?" Johnson also is drawn to Kitty, much to his detriment. He has one sexy and intimate scene with her at the set bar, followed later by a rough and inappropriate one in a hallway where he goes so far he is ostracized. The filmmakers seem to be saying Cosablanca is a political film that is politically neutral: it's about how uneasy and dangerous war and nationality are.

    Curtiz might do best as material for a film student's paper in which she could talk about how the new film comments on the old. But that conversation seems less likely to enthuse the average viewer. I have never been a big fan of Casablanca (not that this would undermine a good film about making it). The old movie's appeal, not inconsiderable, seems not that of great cinema but of the campy cult movie, for the iconic lines and iconic stars, which there's no discounting, for sure. But it may be time to move toward more contemporary and complex commentaries on wartime limbo, like Christian Petzold's Transit (NYFF 2018). Curtiz has occasional charm, and its leads have some intense moments, but it doesn't provide interesting answers about its material or even pose good questions.

    Curtiz, 98 mins., debuted at Montreal. It is presenting in Jewish film festivals and was screned for this review as part of the SFJFF.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-24-2019 at 04:47 PM.

  2. #17
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    Love, Antosha (Garret Price 2019)

    GARRET PRICE: LOVE, ANTOSHA (2019) CAPSULE


    ANTON YELCHIN IN LOVE, ANTOSHA

    Capsule

    When Anton Yelchin died tragically in a freak accident caught between his SUV and the gate of his house at the age of 27, all Hollywood was shocked. After watching this documentary, we understand what we lost. Behind his manic energy and baby face and boyish smile was a tireless creative mind and a searching intelligence. Many were touched by him, he was a great friend. We discover about his CF and how he fought it. CF shortens lives, and that's another reason why he seized life by both horns. We look into some of the 69 films he made (Star Trek, Green Room, Like Crazy) and we begin to understand why he was so beloved by his peers, like Chris Pine,Kristen Stewart, Jodie Foster, John Cho, Martin Landau, Jennifer Lawrence, and his childhood friends who remained very close. Of Anton's starring role in Charlie Bartlett (2008), when he was nineteen, I wrote "he reveals an abundance of charm and energy here. He doesn't have the subtlety or irony of somebody like Kieran Culkin--or Holden Caulfield--or the suavity of Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off--but his character doesn't call for any of that." And that describes him in a lot of his movies, charm, eagerness, and fresh energy. But here we learn about his music, his still photography, his dark side, his journals, his attractiveness to women, and above all his enormous love for his Russian skater emigre parents, and his special adoration of his "Mamoosha." It was to her he constantly wrote, "Love, Antosha." He was just beginning, and this is a sad and touching and beautiful elegy.

    Love, Antosha, 92 mins, debuted at Sundance Jan. 2019, and showed in at least four other domestic film festivals and some Jewish film festivals. It was creened for this review as part of the SFJFF. Theatrical release is slated for Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.
    SFJFF showtime:
    Monday July 29, 2019 6:00 p.m. Albany Twin
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-25-2019 at 10:17 AM.

  3. #18
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    JERUSALEM_IN_BETWEEN (Pietro Pinto 2018)

    PIETRO PINTO: JERUSALEM_IN_BETWEEN (2018)



    15-min short that plays at the SFJFF with "The Passengers"

    Two boxers, one Jewish and the other Arab, come together in sweat and blood to face off and discover their similarities.
    plays with The Passengers

    JFI and the Jerusalem Film Workshop
    Sponsored by Amy and Mort Friedkin
    The Jewish Film Institute partners with the Jerusalem Film Workshop (JFW) to sponsor young and emerging filmmakers (ages 19-27) from the Bay Area to participate in a six week summer filmmaking workshop in Israel to produce a short documentary that screens at the Jerusalem International Jewish Film Festival and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. SFJFF is proud to present the 2019 JFW film Jerusalem_In_Between/
    Jerusalem_in_Between, 15 mins.,
    SFJFF showtime OF The Passengers:
    Friday August 2, 2019 2:00 p.m. Piedmont Theatre
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-24-2019 at 07:15 PM.

  4. #19
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    MY POLISH HONEYMOON (Élise Otzenberger 2018) CAPSULE

    ÉLISE OTZENBERGER: MY POLISH HONEYMOON (2018) CAPSULE


    ARTHUR IGUAL AND JUDITH CHEMLA IN MY POLISH HONEYMOON

    Capsule

    Anna and Adam arae a young Parisian couple of Polish Jewish origin. They go to visit Poland for the first time. They's veen invited to a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the destruction n of the Jewish community of the village where Adam's grandfather was born. If Adam isn't very sold on this trip, Anna very excited about discovering a place that's also where her grandmother comes from - at least from the little that she knows.
    Off they go in search of their origins on a trip full of surprises, during which they don't find exactly what they come looking for. This film is marred by an imbalance of tone.

    My Polish Honeymoon/Lune de miel, 88 mins., debuted at Angoulême Aug. 24, 2018, playing also at Arras, Rendez-vous du Cinéna francais, Paris, and Moscow. This French film opened in France June 12, 218, to so-so reviews (AlloCiné press rating: 3.0). Critics found the the tone uneven and mockery of the Polish in poor taste. Screened for this capsule as part of the SFJFF.
    SFJFF showtimes:
    Saturday July 20, 2019 6:10 p.m. CineArts
    Tuesday July 23, 2019 8:55 p.m. Castro Theatre
    Tuesday July 30, 2019 6:25 p.m. Albany Twin
    Sunday August 4, 2019 11:45 a.m. Smith Rafael
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-01-2019 at 12:07 AM.

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