Tzivi's Cinema Spotlight


After 35 years in Chicago, Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) now lives in Brooklyn. Follow the link to read a sample from her new eBook "Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter."

Tzivi’s Spotlight

Tzivi reviews 24 Days

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24 days with family

The harrowing but critically important French film 24 Days opened last Friday at the Wilmette Theater.

When last year’s Jerusalem Film Festival gave 24 Days their Lia Award celebrating films dealing with Jewish Heritage, they wrote: “This suspenseful drama manages to avoid clichés and intricately presents the experience of anti-Jewish violence in France. This is a film of great social significance that shows the tragic consequences that arise when violence is ignored and when racist stereotypes are accepted.” 

That was last July, well before “Je Suis Charlie” and the four murders at the Hyper Cacher kosher market in January. So even if you don’t feel up to going, you know in your heart that you should go, if only to bear witness.

Director Alexandre Arcady wrote the screenplay with Emilie Frèche who helped write the source book 24 Days, The Truth about the Death of Ilan Halimi with Ruth Halimi (the mother of Ilan Halimi), so it is no surprise that the adaptation is told from Ruth’s point of view. Nevertheless the filmmakers (who also include award-winning screenwriter Antoine Lacomblez) have done their best to adhere to the facts of the case, adamantly refusing to make their story anymore “sensational” than it already is.

Briefly stated, the facts of the case are as follows:

On January 20, 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old cell phone salesman, is abducted. After Shabbat dinner at his mother’s apartment, he leaves for a meet-up with a young woman customer and never returns. Unbeknownst to him, she is working for a group calling itself “The Gang of Barbarians.” Ilan is hustled into a car and spirited away to a vacant apartment in Bagneux (a slum on the southern edge of Paris).

On January 21, 2006, the next day, Ilan’s family receives the first in a series of ransom demands. The first demand is for 450,000 Euros (approximately $500K), an amount incalculably greater than his family’s ordinary middle class resources. The family contacts the police. Working under the assumption that they are dealing with a routine case of extortion, the police instruct the family to keep the abduction as quiet as possible while they pursue leads and zero in on the perpetrators.

On January 29, 2006, nine days after his abduction, Ilan is moved from the apartment to the boiler room of a neighboring building. In the interim, Didier Halimi, Ilan’s father, has become the voice of the family. Didier, extensively coached by a police psychologist, engages in numerous telephone negotiations with gang leader Youssouf Fofana. Ruth Halimi, on the other hand, is told to return to work and act in public as if everything is normal.

Unable to get money from Didier, Youssouf contacts a rabbi who has had no prior relationship with the Halimi family. When they demand ransom money from him, the rabbi immediately contacts the police. At this point, the Halimis realize their son was abducted because he was Jewish, but the police continue to treat the case as extortion, rejecting any anti-Semitic implications.

On February 13, 2006, 24 days after his abduction, Ilan is found in the woods near the train tracks at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (about 15 miles south of Paris). He dies en route to the hospital.

On February 23, 2006, 10 days after Ilan’s death, Youssouf Fofana is arrested in Côte d'Ivoire (his parents' homeland). 

On March 4, 2006, Fofana is extradited to France.

On February 9, 2007, Ilan’s body -- exhumed from the Cimetière Parisien de Pantin near Paris at the request of his mother -- is reburied on Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem.

On February 18, 2008, Youssouf Fofana and 20 accomplices are brought before the Criminal Court. Fofana is sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 22 years. Nineteen suspects receive prison sentences for kidnapping and assassination. Seven other suspects are sent to prison for obstruction of justice.

Rather than dwell on the gruesome physical details of Ilan’s captivity, the filmmakers focus on the mental torture of those who are desperate to save him. Zabou Breitman is riveting in the central role of Ruth, playing her most heartbreaking scenes with Pascal Elbé as Didier (an ex-husband from whom she has been divorced for decades) and Jacques Gamblin as Commandant Delcour (the skeptical head of the Police investigative team).

Elbé is also tasked with playing monkey-in-the-middle between Tony Harrisson (blazing hot as Youssouf Fofana) and Sylvie Testud (icy cold as police psychologist Brigitte Farell). The fact that Sylvie Testud -- winner of multiple César Awards and the best-known member of this cast -- is in such a small role, adds to the subtext. Even the best of us may think we know more than we do, and resist explanations that fall outside our comfort zone.

Syrus Shahidi, cast as Ilan, is only seen at the very beginning, but establishes himself easily as a sweet and loveable son. What is most important, in context, is his convincing portrayal of an “everyman.” Ilan was just a guy with his whole life ahead of him, until that life was cut tragically short.

For more information, including tickets and times, visit the Wilmette Theater website.

For addition locations in the USA plus VOD link to iTunes, visit the Menemsha Films website

Read more “Real-to-Reel” background on my blog.

24 days Ilan and mother

Top photo: Zabou Breitman as Ruth Halimi with Pascal Elbe as her ex-husband Didier, plus Alka Balbir as their daughter Yaël and Audrey Giacomini as Ilan’s friend Mony.

Bottom photo: Zabou Breitman as Ruth Halimi with Syrus Shahidi as her beloved son, Ilan.

Photos courtesy of Menemsha Films.

Tzivi reviews Woman in Gold

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Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925 at the age of 42. As the wife of wealthy businessmanFerdinand Bloch-Bauer, she was one of the most highly lauded hostesses of Viennese society in its period of greatest artistic and intellectual achievement. Among the luminaries who attended Adele's salons are names still famous today, including musicians such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, and painters such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. In 1907, in the midst of his "Golden Phase," painter Gustav Klimt, the founder of the movement known as the Vienna Secession,did his first portrait of her, and this one painting-"Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I"-has come to represent the entire period.

So where does this painting belong, now thatVienna Secession and all who were a part of it have passed into history? This is the challenging question taken up in the new drama Woman in Gold.

Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, all of their relatives and most of their friends were Jewish. It was, in fact, the astonishing wealth of self-made Jewish entrepreneurs which fueled the Vienna Secession. In 1925, when Adele died so tragically young, Jews had every reason to believe that they had built a permanent place for themselves in a modern Austrian nation newly born in the cataclysmic aftermath of World War I. But less than ten years later, the Nazi Party had assumed control of Germany, and three years later Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss of March 1938. By the time Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer died in Switzerland in November 1945, the Jews of Vienna had either fled or perished in War World War II, and almost all of their property-including "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" and four other Klimt painting commissioned by and paid for by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer-had been confiscated.

So on one level, Woman in Gold is yet another film about the Holocaust (as if there can ever be too many). Structurally it is a court room drama which chronicles the efforts of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer's surviving heirs to prove their claim to some of his expropriated property. But it is also more: Woman in Gold is really a meditation on the meaning of the term "restitution." Once something is stolen, can it ever be restored?

Helen Mirren stars as fussy, feisty protagonist Maria Altmann, but the central character is actually her attorney E. Randol Schoenberg (aka "Randy") played by Ryan Reynolds.

We meet Maria Altmann three times in the course ofWoman in Gold. Early scenes show young MariaBloch (played by actress Nellie Schilling) growing up in a world of luxury and refinement. Her mother Therese was Adele's older sister, and Adele, who was childless, doted on her two nieces Louise (born in 1908) and Maria (born in 1916). The famous Klimt portrait of her aunt is already part of young Maria's world, and the woman who posed for it, the real woman she knows personally, is always as perfectly adorned as Klimt painted her. 

By 1937, when Maria (now played by Tatiana Maslany) marries handsome Fritz Altmann (Max Irons), Adele has become an icon as well as an omnipresent memory. Maria's loving uncleFerdinand gives her the necklace seen in the portrait as a wedding gift. Their wedding reception is a high society event with a dash of Klezmer. And then the bottom falls out of their world. Maria and Fritz flee, leaving everyone and everything behind them.

California, 1998. Louise has died, leaving letters from Uncle Ferdinand in the boxes now stored in Maria's bungalow. Maybe Randy, the son of Maria's friend Barbara, can take a look at these papers and give her some advice?

And so it begins. At first Randy is none too pleased. "Thanks, Mom," he mutters to himself after promising Barbara that he will call Maria and do what he can. But then he googles, realizes the market value of the paintings in question, and sets his shoulder to the wheel.

In the battle that ensues, Maria never changes. Mirren plays her as an archetypal "Yekke" (Yiddish slang for the kind of German Jew who is a bit too buttoned-down). Maria is always precise about both her diction and her appearance, and she is strict in her demeanor. 

Randy, on the other hand, changes a great deal overtime. By the end, Randy has become a mensch, not only coming into his own as a man but also assuming his role as member of the Jewish community. E. Randol Schoenberg, it turns out, is not just any Schoenberg, he is the grandson of composer Arnold Schoenberg, and thus is heir to a cultural legacy as exalted as Maria's own.

Maria and Randy make their case. This will not be big news to anyone who knows that "Portrait ofAdele Bloch-Bauer I" now hangs in the Neue Gallerie, a Manhattan museum devoted to 20thCentury German and Austrian art. So the suspense lies not in the outcome but in the process. How does fighting for his own legacy change Randy's view of himself? How does restoration of property lead to dignity reclaimed?

Woman in Gold is not a documentary, it is a narrative feature. In other words, a very complicated story is reduced to a runtime just under two hours. So have some of the facts of the matter been stretched? Definitely. But is the core solid? Yes.

When I reviewed Portrait of Wally, an excellent 2012 documentary by Andrew Shea that deals with similar issues, I felt there was closure in the return of an Egon Schiele painting to Vienna. I feel the same way about Woman in Gold even though the end result is the opposite. The Vienna of Adele Bloch-Bauer-the Jewish Vienna of the early 20th Century-can never be restored. That spirit, in so far as it lives anywhere, now lives in New York.

Woman in Gold opens today (April 1) at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema in Lincoln Park and on Friday (April 3) at the Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park. For schedule information, visit:

To learn more about the case, read Maria Altmann's obituary in the 2/17/11 issue of The Economist, or watch the 2008 documentary Adele's Wish online.


Helen Mirren as "Maria Altmann" and Ryan Reynolds as "Randy Schoenberg in Woman in Gold.

Photo credits: Robert Viglasky © The Weinstein Company

Tzivi applauds Gett

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Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is the story of a woman who is determined to obtain a divorce even though her husband is equally determined to prevent it. Because Viviane and Elisha are Israelis, they can only divorce in a ceremony presided over by the three Rabbis who comprise a Bet Din (religious court), and the Rabbis will only proceed if Elisha agrees to give his free and unfettered consent. And thus his wife--Viviane Amsalem--begins a five year ordeal which reveals the degree to which Israeli women are "chained" to their husbands not just by custom but also by law.

This is strong stuff, fully intended to galvanize public opinion by using the full power of artistic expression to create societal change. Does it succeed? Only time will tell, but the answer right now appears to be yes. When co-writer/co-director Shlomi Elkabetz did his Q&A after the January 15 screening of Gett at the 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival, he announced that Gett would be screened at the annual conference of rabbinical judges, and just today Haaretz reported that it actually happened.

So suffice it to say that you will want to see Gett yourself when it opens in Metro Chicago tomorrow (2/27/15) at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema in Lincoln Park and the Landmark Renaissance Plaza Cinema in Highland Park. Don't be intimidated by the fact that Gett is the third and final chapter in a trilogy of films which include To Take a Wife (2004) and Shiva (2008). I have seen all three films, and I can assure you that each one is free-standing and self-contained.

You do not need to know anything in advance to appreciate the drama inherent in Gett. However, regular readers will anticipate that I have already posted reviews of all three films, and I have also posted an overview of the complete trilogy on my Blog Second City Tzivi. So if you would like to do some homework before you go, START HERE.

Full Disclosure: The first time I saw Gett was when I watched it on my computer way back in September, right after I watched Zero Motivation (which I also watched on my computer). At the time, although I liked both films very much, I thought that Zero Motivation was just a little bit better than Gett. So when I wrote my Ophir Update post, I expressed surprise that Gett (which had received 12 Ophir Nominations from the Israel Film Academy but only won two) won Best Picture even though Zero Motivation (which had also received 12 Ophir Nominations) had won six (including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, plus Best Casting, Best Editing, and Best Music).

Now that I have seen both films on big screens, however, I see that the members of the Israel Film Academy were correct: seen as intended--on a big screen--Gett is an overwhelming experience. You simply will not feel the claustrophobia of the courtroom as Viviane does unless you enter that cavernous space with her. And if you do, some thoughts and opinions you may never have questioned before, may well be forever changed.

For schedule information and links to online ticket purchase, visit the Landmark Theatre website.


Top photo: Ronit Elkabetz as "Viviane Amsalem" in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.
Botton photo: Members of the Bet Din from left: Rami Danon, Eli Gorstein, and Roberto Pollack. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

Tzivi reviews Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholem Aleichem

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"I carry Sholem Aleichem with me. I have my entire life… So these two stories, these two journeys are intertwined, his and mine, even though we never met… This is my legacy. People should know who I am and what informs me… I am a shtetl Jew. I am. Even though I've never lived in a shtetl, I come from there. These are my rules. This is how I think. This is how I dream." Theodore Bikel (1/11/15)

Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholem Aleichem, a new documentary from the National Center for Jewish Film, is an intentionally personal story told by one of the most accomplished and politically-influential Jewish entertainers of the 20th Century. Director John Lollos combines  scenes from Bikel's acclaimed solo performance Sholem Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears with footage filmed at the annual Sholem Aleichem Yahrzeit in Manhattan in 2013. In addition to the songs, monologues, and moments of reflection from Bikel, Lollos also includes narration by Alan Alda to provide context (written by Lollos and his co-Producer Marsha Lebby), plus interviews with a wide variety of talking heads. It makes for an enchanting and fast-paced 75 minutes.

Bikel begins-appropriately enough-with a scene from Sholem Aleichem's "Modern Children" which is the third of the eight Tevye stories (the one about Tzeitel and Motel). This is followed by appreciative remarks from Sheldon Harnick (the genius who wrote the lyrics to all the songs in Fiddler on the Roof), as well as Yiddish Theatre star Fyvush Finkel, and Michael Wex (author of the popular book Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods).

From there, Bikel introduces the audience to Kasrilevke (the mythical setting of many of Sholem Aleichem's best stories), followed by comments from Allen Lewis Rickman (the actor who played the shtetl husband at the beginning of the Coen Brothers' hilarious film A Serious Man).

Having ensured that we now know a bit about Sholem Aleichem, Bikel switches to the first person to tell us more about himself. How many people watching Theodore Bikel play a patriarchal Tevye on stage remember that he was once a handsome young folk singer? I do. As I told Bikel when we spoke on the phone on January 11: "Your music was part of my cultural background when I was growing up in the '60s. You were singing about liberal causes and enriching the world." To which Bikel replied: "I plead guilty for all of it."

Indeed, in addition to albums with titles like "Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folks Songs" (sung in Yiddish) and "Theodore Bikel Sings Songs of Israel" (sung in Hebrew), Bikel can also be found on the album "Greatest Folksingers of the 'Sixties" side-by-side with the likes of Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band!

As the two intertwined stories unfold, Bikel continues to tell more Sholem Aleichem stories, perform more Yiddish songs, and do more personal and professional reminiscing. Meanwhile Finkel, Harnick, Rickman and Wex are joined by many others who combine to form an Ashkenazi-accented "Greek Chorus." And as they all speak, Lollos artfully inserts just the right imagery, from Marc Chagall's paintings to Roman Vishniac's photographs to signs posted in the American South in the Jim Crow Era: "No Negroes, No Jews & No Dogs Allowed."

Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholem Aleichem is a film to see in a theatre and also to buy on DVD. See it once with an appreciative audience and you will want to watch it at home-again and again-with your family.

To read more snippets from my interviews with Theodore Bikel and John Lollos, follow THIS LINK to the JUF News "Arts & Entertainment" section.

Photos courtesy of the National Center for Jewish Film.


Tzivi reviews Zero Motivation

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Zero Motivation Zohar 

 Zero Motivation, tied for my Top Pick in the Feature category at this year’s Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema, opens today at the Music Box Theatre on Southport. So if you didn’t see it at CFIC ’14 back in October, you now have another chance to see one the best—and most highly lauded—filmmaking debuts of the year.

This is not hyperbole. In April 2014, Zero Motivation won Best Narrative Feature at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, and writer/director Talya Lavie won the prestigious Nora Ephron Prize. (Per TFF: “With our Nora Ephron Prize, we hope to not only honor this amazing woman, but also to inspire a new generation of female writers and directors.”) Then, in August 2014, Zero Motivation received twelve Ophir Award nominations ("the Israeli Oscar") from the Israel Film Academy, and in September 2014, it won six Ophirs (Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Casting, Best Editing, and Best Music).

So what makes Zero Motivation so special? On the most basic level, Zero Motivation is a hilarious look at the role of women in the Israeli military, rightly compared to Robert Altman’s much-loved black comedy M*A*S*H. But dig deeper, and it is also an insightful peek into the current state of Israeli society as a whole, as well as an even more universal look at the role of women in most of today’s “advanced” Western democracies.

The story unfolds in three chapters (“The Replacement,” “The Virgin,” and “The Commander”), with bookended Prologue and Epilogue segments.

In the Prologue, we meet our main character, “Zohar,” (brilliantly played by Best Actress Ophir winner Dana Ivgy), who is waiting at a crowded bus stop for her BFF “Daffi.” (Daffi is played with equal brilliance by Nelly Tagar, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Ophir. Ironically, Tagar lost out to none other than Ivgy who, in addition, received the Best Supporting Actress Ophir for her role in another film called Next to Her. Next to Her played in our 2014 Chicago International Film Festival and will likely play in our 2015 CFIC as well.) They are on their way back to a remote military base presumably somewhere in the Negev.

Quick-witted Zohar manages to grab two seats, ferociously saving one for lackadaisical Daffi (who is soon napping comfortably on Zohar’s shoulder). But suddenly the bus stops and everyone must get out and transfer to another bus. In the ensuing scramble, Zohar and Daffi are pushed back by the huge throng of male soldiers surrounding them, and the two young women are left standing in the aisle with miles and miles of desert still to traverse. As tiny Daffi reaches for and swings from the strap high above her head, one wonders if any of the guys aboard will think to offer his seat to “a lady”? Answer: Nope, not in this man’s army!

In the epilogue, Zohar boards a new bus, one that is cool and empty and ready to spirit her away from the base to whatever the future has in store for her.

Plot points in the chapters in between are primarily carried by three more actresses: Shani Klein as “Rama” (the head of Administration), Dana Minerat as “Anat” (the head of Education), and Tamara Klingon as “Irena” (a Russian immigrant who works in the same office as Zohar and Daffi and also bunks in the same room). Of course, there are many men in this mix playing commanders, soldiers, and paratroopers, but they all have relatively minor roles in the overall story of a small group of women who push paper for, bring coffee to, and otherwise service the needs of the very large group of muscular men in uniform who run the base.

How can this be funny? Seeing is believing, so trust me on this: By the time Zohar and Daffi circle each other with staple guns as if they were Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton at the OK Corral, you’ll be laughing through your tears.

Zero Motivation opens today at the Music Box Theatre on Southport. Follow this link for schedule information:

For more on Zero Motivation from the Jewish perspective, read the post on my Second City Tzivi blog.

For more on Zero Motivation from the Feminist perspective, read the post on my blog The Hot Pink Pen.

  Zero Motivation bus

Top Photo: Dana Ivgy as “Zohar” at her Mail Clerk desk.

Bottom Photo: “Daffi” (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar on their way back to the base.


Photo Credits: © Yaron Scharf/Zeigeist Films

Tzivi reviews Listen Up Philip

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For Jewish fans of novelist Philip Roth, Listen Up Philip arrives in our art house theatres like an early Hanukkah gift. Filmmaker Alex Ross Perry not only signals his intention right up front in the title, he also calls his lead character "Philip Lewis Friedman." 

But true to his Rothian roots, Perry then mixes up the identities a bit, adding a mentor named Ike Zimmerman and introducing both Zimmerman and his work through a hilarious montage of book covers, all of which look like the covers of actual Philip Roth books. (For aficionados like me, the stylized Roth covers are as unmistakable as the Windsor font Woody Allen always uses for his film title and credit lines.)

Of course, you don't have to know all the details of the life and loves of Philip Roth in order to enjoy Listen Up Philip. It stands on its own as a black comedy about trying to make it as a serious writer in the era of noxious "self-branding." But the more you know, the funnier it is. And I suspect most Jewish readers-most of whom are devoted consumers of contemporary culture-will have absorbed a great deal of the necessary background already, if only by osmosis.

When we first meet Philip (a role seemingly made-to-measure for actor Jason Schwartzman and perfectly crafted around his persona), he has completed his second novel and he is working on his third. So we follow Philip as he is instructed in the mechanics of the business of publishing: Here is a list of your photo shoots; here is the itinerary for your book tour; here are snippets of the reviews of your second novel that will soon appear in major publications.

Philip has a meltdown. Offered sanctuary by his idol "Ike Zimmerman" (Jonathan Pryce), Philip stomps out of his publisher's office, packs a few bags at the Brooklyn home he shares with his longtime girlfriend "Ashley Kane" (Elisabeth Moss), and heads off to Zimmerman's country retreat for the summer. Then Zimmerman arranges an adjunct position for him at a local college, and Philip tells Ashley he will be staying through the fall.

As the plot unfolds, Eric Bogosian provides the unseen voice of a wise, omniscient narrator who sees all, knows all, and adds the erudite perspective that Roth himself might contribute if he were the one actually telling this story. Thus Philip, Ike, and Ashley come to exist not just as themselves on screen and in "real time," they also become characters in a cinematic Philip Roth "homage novel."

Without giving away any of the details, let me just say that Philip Lewis Friedman is intended to be one of the winners in the 21st Century culture wars, just as Philip Roth was himself a winner in the 20th Century culture wars. The narrator specifically tells us that Philip Lewis Friedman will achieve his goals as an author. But the open question is what this success will cost both men-both Philip Lewis Friedman and Philip Milton Roth-as people.

Perry's great accomplishment in Listen Up Philip is to address the delicate issue of misogyny from the perspective of a young man coming of age in the Millennial Generation. I just entered "Philip Roth + misogyny" into Google and got 20,600 results in .28 seconds, so I did not invent this topic. It has been there for most of my life and for all of Perry's life. Roth turned 80 last year and this year he announced his retirement, so there is nothing more he can do about any of this. Roth's "woman problem" now belongs to his literary heirs, and Perry-who turned 30 in July-is clearly up to the challenge.

Like Philip Roth, Ike Zimmerman expected women to be a certain way. We don't know how this worked out for Ike in his own romantic, sexual, or marital life, but we do learn quite a bit about how Ike's daughter "Melanie Zimmerman" (Krysten Ritter) feels about all of this. She tells Ike, she tells Philip, and she tells the world in her book A Daughter's Point of View: A Memoir of My Father which deliberately mocks the title of one of Ike's books (A Woman's Point of View) and also invokes My Life as Man, which is supposedly  one of the Roth novels that triggered  ex-wife  Claire Bloom's notorious memoir Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir. (From the Amazon page for My Life as Man: "At its heart lies the marriage of Peter and Maureen Tarnopol, a gifted young writer and the woman who wants to be his muse but who instead is his nemesis.")

But enough inside baseball. Suffice it to say that Ike Zimmerman's relationships with women have been disastrous, so what does the future hold in store for Philip Lewis Friedman? From the sympathy with which Perry creates the "Ashley" character (Elisabeth Moss), the "Melanie" character (Krysten Ritter), and the character of "Yvette Dussart" (Joséphine de La Baume)-a professor Phillip meets at the college-we can be sure that Perry knows his own life as a man will follow different rules.

For more photos and links, visit my Blog post on\

To see all the book jackets for Listen Up Philip-brilliantly designed for Perry by Teddy Blanks-follow THIS LINK to Slate.

Listen Up Philip opens today at the Music Box Theatre on Southport. Click HERE for schedule information. It is also available On Demand.


Top Photo: Jason Schwartzman as Philip Lewis Friedman.
Bottom Photo: Jonathan Pryce and Jason Schwartzman.
Photo Credits: Shawn Bannon and Wendy George/Tribecca Films

Ophir update & CFIC ’14 sneak peek

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Two short weeks ago, when I wrote my article about the 2014 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema for the October issue of the JUF News, I made a prediction. I said: "My bet is that by the time you read this, Zero Motivation will have won the Ophir Award for Best Film, which will automatically make it Israel's candidate for Best Foreign Language Film in the next international awards cycle."

Readers, I was wrong. Zero Motivation did indeed win many Ophir Awards on Sept. 21 including Best Director and Best Screenplay (Talya Lavie) and Best Actress (Dana Ivgy), but the Ophir Award for Best Picture (aka "the Israeli Oscar") went to Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.

Gett is the third film in a trilogy written and directed by Ronit Elkabetz in collaboration with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz. Elkabetz also stars in the lead role of "Viviane Amsalem," a woman from a large Moroccan-Israeli family who has been separated from her husband for years but is unable to obtain a "Gett" (a Jewish writ of divorce).

Perhaps you saw Shivah (the second film in the trilogy) when I did? I named it one of my "Highly Recommended Features" in CFIC '09. And after I saw Shivah, I went online to find a copy of the first film To Take a Wife. Both DVDs are now available on Amazon and both are excellent.

Ronit Elkabetz is probably best known to American audiences for her roles in Late Marriage (2001) and The Band's Visit (2007). She is also well-known in France for her roles in films like The Girl on the Train (2009). In this year's Ophir contest for Best Actress, Elkabetz went head-to-head with Dana Ivgy, the star of Zero Motivation. Ironically, Ivgy also won in 2004 when she played Elkabetz's daughter in Or Mon Tresor (a film which brought writer/director Keren Yedaya multiple awards at Cannes and elsewhere).

Although I am surprised by this outcome, I am by no means disappointed. In the words of Hannah Brown of the Jerusalem Post: "It was the year of the woman at the Ophir Awards… as two films by and about the specific problems of Israeli women - and the universal issues of women everywhere - captured the lion's share of the major awards."

Unfortunately Gett is not part of this year's CFIC line-up. But distribution rights have already been acquired by Chicago's hometown Indie heroes Music Box Films, so it will likely be available soon.

Perhaps the CFIC committee will decide to show the whole trilogy-To Take a Wife, Shivah, and Gett-in CFIC '15. If so, I hope they invite me to lead the Q&A!

Here is my list of CFIC '14 Top Picks. More information will be available in print (in the October issue of the JUF News) and online (in the Arts & Entertainment section). Full reviews of each of these films-plus additional CFIC '14 related features-will be available on my Blog Second City Tzivi.

  • New Filmmakers: Talya Lavie (Zero Motivation)
  • New Stars: Keren Berger (A Place in Heaven and Cupcakes)
  • Best Feature Film = TIE = A Place in Heaven and Zero Motivation
  • Best Actor: Alon Abuttul in A Place in Heaven
  • Best Actress: Anat Waxman in Cupcakes
  • Best Supporting Actor: Patrick Stewart in Hunting Elephants
  • Best Supporting Actress: Rotem Zussman-Cohen in A Place in Heaven
  • Best Documentary Film over 60 Minutes: Above and Beyond
  • Best Documentary Film under 60 Minutes: The Women Pioneers

Order your tickets now. CFIC '14 is going to be a great film festival!

Top Photo: Ronit Elkabetz in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Courtesy of Music Box Films)
Bottom Photo: Dana Ivgy in Zero Motivation (Courtesy of CFIC)