Categories
Arts

Manchester By The Sea

A heavy pall hangs over Kenneth Lonergan’s serious-minded movie, Manchester By The Sea, which opens in Canadian theaters on November 25. A contemporary family drama set mainly in a New England fishing town, it’s invariably earnest. It’s carried on the capable shoulders of Casey Affleck, who plays Lee Chandler, a janitor who’s summoned back to his … Read More

Categories
Arts

The Spectacular Failure of Birobidzhan

Masha Gessen does not mince words. Birobidzhan, set aside by the Soviet Union in the late 1920s as a national homeland for Jews, was “perhaps the worst good idea ever.” She develops this argument in an absorbing book, Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region (Nextbook) For a … Read More

Categories
Arts

Hungarian Freedom First Film Festival Features Sunshine

Sixty years ago last month, Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary and crushed a popular anti-communist revolution. To mark the uprising, the Hungarian consulate in Toronto is presenting the Freedom First — Hungary 1956 Film Festival at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox from November 17-20. Admission is free. One of the movies on tap, Istvan Szabo’s Sunshine (1999), starring … Read More

Categories
Arts

Elle: Paul Verhoeven’s First French Film

Paul Verhoeven’s first French language film, Elle, which opens in Canada on November 18, simmers with sexual perversity, betrayal and deception. This taut psychological thriller, set in contemporary Paris, pits a successful businesswoman against a home invader who assaults her and then proceeds to bombard her with a series of suggestive and taunting text messages … Read More

Categories
Arts

The Golden Age Shtetl

In his sentimental film, Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem’s beloved stories, Norman Jewison immortalized Anatevka, a shtetl in Russia’s Pale of Settlement steeped in piety and poverty and stricken by pogroms. By the late 19th century, the shtetl, though in a parlous state of decline, was home to 80 percent of East … Read More

Categories
Arts

The Eagle Huntress

Deep in the wilds of Mongolia, nomads practice the art of eagle hunting. By tradition, it’s a man’s sport in this hierarchical society. So when a 13-year-old girl sets her sights on following in their footsteps, the grizzled men in her tight-knit community are surprised and even aghast by her ambition. This is the theme … Read More

Categories
Arts

Colliding Dreams

One of the longest-simmering conflicts of our time, the Arab-Israeli dispute, has been stubbornly immune to resolution. It has ground on for more than a century, claiming innumerable lives and wasting scarce resources. Stripped to its barest essentials, it pits Zionism against Palestinian nationalism. The piecemeal return of Jews to their ancestral homeland, spurred by … Read More

Categories
Arts

A History Of Jewish-Muslim Relations

At a moment when jihadism is on the rise and Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians has reached a nadir, Princeton University Press’ encyclopedic volume, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations, is a welcome addition to our fount of knowledge. More than 1,100 pages in length, and lavishly illustrated, this authoritative tome should be required reading for … Read More

Categories
Arts

The Last Laugh

Should comedians avoid crossing social and political red lines? Are they bound by society’s taboos? These are the overlapping questions implicitly posed by Ferne Pearlstein in The Last Laugh, a probing documentary that examines the Holocaust from a completely different point of view. Pearlstein’s movie, which will be screened by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival … Read More

Categories
Arts

The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, adapted from Sarah Waters’ bestseller, Fingersmith, is a highly stylized erotic thriller which takes place in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s. Scheduled to open in Canada on October 28, this two-and-a-half hour Korean and Japanese-language film is at once prim and carnal, unfolding in an opulent mansion set deep in a forest. With one striking exception, the … Read More