Brief Reviews: Promises to Keep, Debts to Repay
The Names of Love
On the surface a romantic comedy about Arab-Jewish relations, French sociopolitics and the Holocaust, this charming film has characters chatting with their younger selves, a device that reveals a true self hidden beneath layers of cultural identity and faux baggage. These alter egos let us accept the possibility of the present, which throws a free-spirited Algerian-born Muslim in bed with a methodical son of a Holocaust survivor. Director Michel Leclerc has a talent for light-handed graciousness. Music Box Films (www.namesoflovemovie.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
Gilles Paguet-Brenner and Serge Joncour’s film brings to life the best-selling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. Kristin Scott Thomas plays to perfection American journalist Julia, who has researched the July 1942 French roundup of Jews into the Vel d’Hivre. When she and her husband plan a move into his grandparents’ Paris apartment, Julia investigates its history. Revelations about the fate of the previous Jewish occupants, particularly young Sarah, significantly change Julia’s and others’ lives. Bring a hanky. The Weinstein Company (www.sarahskeymovie.com). —Zelda Shluker
This warm-hearted film by Jill Andresevic documents a handful of engaging New Yorkers, several of them Jewish, who are seeking or have found love. They are a single parent, elderly lovers, tentative teens, gay and, possibly, even mismatched newlyweds. The panoramic photography shows a multitude of peaceful, enticing cityscapes—another sort of love story about the city’s boroughs. Walnut Hill Media (www.loveetcthemovie.com). —Z.S.
Por el Flamenco
While living in Spain, Shem Shemy, an Israeli philosophy teacher, discovered, through Gypsy flamenco—an art form born of suffering—a path to a pain he had not previously acknowledged. His father, a war hero, had been shot in the head during Israel’s War of Attrition with Egypt (1967-1970). Flamenco recordings that director Shemy made during a road trip through Andalusia, and his insight into his family’s plight, comprise this remarkable documentary. Ruth Diskin Films (www.ruthfilms.com). —J.G.M.
You know the Israeli film industry has come of age when Miramax remakes a 2007 Israeli original. Helen Mirren (here with Ciarán Hinds) heads the cast of the English-language, all-star blockbuster. The thriller has three Mossad agents revisiting their bungled capture of the Butcher of Birkenau 30 years earlier. The new film is slick, exciting, full of incredible acting and supertense moments—as was the original—but it does not reach the Israeli version’s depth of meaning. Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com). —J.G.M.
The credits on this raucous album by the Mama Doni Band are as wacky as the music: The lead singer performs all bubbie vocals, shtick solos, “Jewishkeit” and the sneeze in “Fahklempt.” Your kids can enjoy the pop-rock-western take on Shabbat and “Challah-Day.” Debbie Friedman fans will enjoy her melody “Havdala.” Mama Doni Productions (www.mamadoni.com). —S.A.
KZ MUSIK: Encyclopedia of Music Composed in Concentration Camps (1933-1945)
This comprehensive collection has works by Victor Ullman, Gideon Klein, Hugo Lowenthal and Hans Krasa among many others. On CD 7 (12 of the planned 24 CDs are available), for instance, are Dutch-born Marius Flothuis’s works for flute, guitar, violin and a female choir, composed in Amersfoort and Sachsenhausen; and Zinaida, who composed “Ravensbrucklied,” a short piece for female singer and piano. Associazione Culturale Musicstrasse (www.musikstrasse.it). —Susan Adler
My Brother’s Keeper
Survivors among some 1,500 American and Canadian volunteers who fought in Israel’s War of Independence assembled in Israel in 2008. One of them, Ira Feinberg, brought a camera crew to create a record of their deeds on land, sea and air. There were no embedded reporters in 1947-1949 to take combat footage so the documentary is somewhat static but of considerable historic value. Cinema Angels (www.irafeinberg.com). —Tom Tugend
Paul Giamatti’s Golden Globe-winning performance as a cranky, serial husband in this (at heart) love story is an adaptation of Mordechai Richler’s novel. There are wicked observations of a self-satisfied Jewish community. The funny moments and fine performances show the intersection of crassness and romance. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (www.sonypictures.com/homevideo).—S.A.
During the Nazi period, music was used for politics, resistance and memorial. With hundreds of recordings and articles, the new Music and the Holocaust site, from World ORT,https://holocaustmusic.ort.org, offers insights into the era. The site looks at the use of music in propaganda with, for example, audiofiles of Hitler Youth songs. Musical memorials are explored, including Arnold Schoenberg’s 1947 cantata, A Survivor from Warsaw. The People section recalls musicians such as Alma Rosé, conductor of the Birkenau Women’s Orchestra, known for stopping the orchestra if the Nazi guards were not listening. The site, which has teachers’ resources, is a companion to other ORT educational offerings at https://art.holocaust-education.net, a collection of Holocaust-era art, andhttps://dpcamps.ort.org, about the displaced persons camps. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn