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Author Topic: Anti-Semitism in American Film  (Read 10131 times)

pixote

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #30 on: April 30, 2010, 06:44:13 PM »
Yay!

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'Noke

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #31 on: April 30, 2010, 07:30:12 PM »
Quiz Show is such a wonderful film.
I actually consider a lot of movies to be life-changing! I take them to my heart and they melt into my personality.

Corndog

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #32 on: May 11, 2010, 02:17:36 PM »
The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

I saw this in theaters with my Mom and my brothers, much like many of my fellow classmates at St. Matthew's Catholic grade school back in 2004. I knew going in kind of what to expect, but I also fully expected never to see it again. It was one of those "important to see it, but only once" kind of movies. Having seen it again, however, I get the inkling that for some reason in my future I will see it again somehow. Certainly not in the near future, but I sense it is there somewhere and for some reason. The film was interesting to me on three different levels. One is the obvious connection to my paper and my ability to formulate an articulate analysis and get a good grade and graduate. The second is the idea of faith. The film deals with both Jews and Christians and with the recent discovery, possibly, of Noah's Ark in Turkey, religion plays a large part in my interest in the film. The third reason is that of the film itself. What are its merits and strengths and what are its demerits and weaknesses? How is it played historically?

The first part is dealt with directly in the section following the review, so I will skip it here and move onto my second point of interest: religion. I was born and raised Roman Catholic (but we accepted Vatican II unlike Gibson's style of Catholicism) yet today I do not consider myself any particular religion or faith; I try to live my life more on a moral basis and do not worry about religious aspects as much, but religion does and always has fascinated me. So here we have the filmmaker Gibson seemingly condemning Jews for having condemned Jesus. The evidence provided by Gibson is convincing in the film, but is it accurate? Well I would say that with the power and money Gibson had behind this project it is hard to say and from an historical perspective I can say that it falls somewhere probably in the middle. Why? Why? Why? Every question is a why. Why did Jesus act as he did? Why was his death more important for humanity than his survival? Why were the Jews so afraid of this man? Why did they not believe he was their prophesy fulfilled? Why did the Romans act as they did?

The third part of interest is in that of a movie lover. This film was nominated for three Academy Awards and deserved every one of them. The cinematography is first and foremost the most worthy. The film is strikingly beautiful. And the music score compliments the images and haunting story perfectly. And needless to say their was adequate opportunities to show off the make up department. Apart from that the performances were all quite good and the tone of the film was pretty good too. There were moments that were off, but for the most part it was surprisingly poignant. And to my surprise there was significantly less amount of "torture porn" than I was expecting. Yes, some is shown and it is graphic and nasty, but for the most part it is not shown and is not what I felt Gibson was going for. What I felt he was going for was the general violent and hating society that the world harbored and still harbors today. Some of the reactions by the participants and onlookers tell the entire story. Some are heartbroken, even after egging the events on to happen; and some are giddy with excitement and pleasure, which is equal parts disturbing and disheartening.

It may not be a film for everyone, it may not be a politically correct or historically accurate film, but it is still an important one for the story it tells, the way it tells it and how it got made. If my memory serves me correctly, Gibson was forced to make this film predominately on his own dime. I'm not even sure if he has made that money back from this, but what is important to note now is the fact that the film got made. It proves Hollywood can get any movie made for better or for worse and in my eyes that is significant. This may not be the first of its kind for this to happen, but it is the one that sticks in my mind as the film that allows for artistic expression and the filmmakers vision the most. Gibson had a vision and a mission and I think he accomplished it with this film. Now it may not be perfect, it may not be enjoyable or certainly rewatchable, but I would say it was a good film and one that is important to note.

***

Commentary on anti-Semitism: When I announced my plan to include this film as part of my paper/marathon, some raised the question as to whether this was anti-Semitic or not. Well after watching it, and knowing what I know about the background of the film, I think it merits inclusion. Unlike Gentleman's Agreement or Crossfire, it does not deal with anti-Semitism directly, not does it condemn it. Both those films showed it to you and told you it was wrong. Here, Gibson decides instead to use his money and his beliefs to show his audience that it was the Jews that potentially killed Jesus. That is it, that is what is said here, whether it is in your face or not, it comes across that the Romans were reluctant and only crucified Jesus at the insistence of the Jews and the political pressure from above to not have an uprising over the matter. As such, there is no room to really comment on whether they were right, whether they were wrong, or if the film is in fact condemning Jews by its depiction. But that is the beauty of this film being a part of my paper. It raised that question. Is it, or is it not? The discussion and the background of the production (i.e. Gibson) is what makes it intriguing and worthwhile to talk about. Also the fact that it does not send the message that anti-Semitism is wrong adds an interesting dynamic to my paper that I did not have before.
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michael x

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #33 on: May 11, 2010, 03:14:50 PM »
Glad you enjoyed it.

The whole anti-semitism angle to The Passion of the Christ strikes me as bizarre. Sure, Jews killed Jesus, but nowhere does the film attempt to remove the Jewishness of Jesus or his disciples. It strikes me as no more racist than one Anglo killing another Anglo. And the idea that every film depicting a group of people that have been oppressed in the past must actively campaign against that oppression is corrosive to art.

Frankly, people had the strangest reactions to this movie. Of course, it was made by Mel Gibson. I'm also coming from a background of faith and one in which I didn't even know anti-semitism was a thing that existed until I was 16 or so.

Corndog

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #34 on: May 12, 2010, 11:26:58 PM »
Ragtime (Milos Forman, 1981)

The film was dull. There, I said it. It focused in on the character of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Howard Rollins) and Rollins delivers about the only passable performance, Cagney included. We were supposed to read the novel for class, so undoubtedly I did not. However, I can definitely tell that that narrative would have been much more interesting because there was a serious lack of depth of character here that annoyed me to no end. Characters were introduced and played around with for a little bit until they were put on the back burner for another and in the end it turned out to be the story of Coalhouse Walker. Forman, whom I have not seen a film of before, tries to develop the characters, but instead uses the 155 minute runtime to only do this partially, which is a real annoyance. I am actually somewhat curious about the novel now, but only because this is an instance where the book has got to be better than the movie.

The film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and looking at most of them I can almost see it. The costumes were wonderful. The music score was great. And the cinematography was pretty good too. But I was just so turned off by the film within the first hour that the rest of the film ran by like routine and nothing exciting or gripping occurred to me. I get the message: racism is stupid and bad, but other films have done it better and more effectively. To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect going in other than an array of characters and story arcs; well that is basically what I got, but this array ain't no rainbow.

**1/2

Commentary on anti-Semitism: Well sadly I am unsure whether this will be able to be used for my paper. Unlike E.L. Doctorow's novel, the film focuses in on the character of Coalhouse Walker, the main male black character. All of the characters from the book are present, but their stories, most notably that of the Jewish man Tateh, are skimmed over in favor of the story of racism and overraction of Walker. Yea, probably won't use this is my paper.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2010, 09:38:44 AM by Corndog »
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Zhankfor

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2010, 09:47:42 PM »
The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

The film deals with both Jews and Christians and with the recent discovery, possibly, of Noah's Ark in Turkey, religion plays a large part in my interest in the film.

I'd just like to say, as an archaeologist myself, that Noah's Ark gets "discovered" in Turkey once every couple years. There's an entire sector of the Turkish tourism industry devoted to it.

Corndog

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #36 on: May 16, 2010, 12:48:55 PM »
Really? That's so strange. I've never heard of it being discovered before.
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OlympicArtichoke

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #37 on: May 17, 2010, 03:48:04 PM »
Really? That's so strange. I've never heard of it being discovered before.

I've definitely heard of Noah's Ark being discovered a few times already in my life time (I'm 26).
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #38 on: May 17, 2010, 04:02:04 PM »
This article came out yesterday about the 25 essential Jewish films and I thought about this marathon.
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Corndog

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Re: Anti-Semitism in American Film
« Reply #39 on: May 24, 2010, 11:02:19 AM »
The Life of Emile Zola (William Dieterle, 1937)

The oldest entry into the marathon, The Life of Emile Zola is also the only biopic in this marathon, which is somewhat surprising. But it is not a biopic of a Jewish man, or even a man deeply involved as being an anti-Semite. Emile Zola is a renown author in France and is known for his social commentary on various things including government and military. For Zola, it is a rags to riches tale. Zola began the film in a one room apartment with friend Paul Cezanne and gradually writes books that gain popular holdings despite their controversial issues. This makes him a good deal of money and makes him a famous, wealthy man. There is also a sub plot to the story though: Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus is a military man who has spent 20 years serving his country. To his detriment, in terms of what soon transpires in the film, he is also a Jew. When a letter is intercepted between an unknown French officer and a German military attache that was quite revealing, Dreyfus is blamed for the treason, even when a writing test must prove his innocence. That is where Zola comes into play to defend his innocence.

The film won Best Picture in 1937, which to me is somewhat surprising, though Hollywood has always been quite liberal and always looking for a good political statement, though I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. It was actually quite well received and nominated for a number of other awards. Having not seen anything else from that yea I don't reckon, I cannot say whether the accolades were deserved, but it was a somewhat well crafted film. Paul Muni in the title role gives a great performance which culminates in a moving speech at the end. There was just something that was never quite engaging enough to me about it. And maybe it is something with biopics, never being quite satisfying enough to me but, while I appreciated the life of Emile Zola, I was never captivated by it. At the same time, this is something that will also have a minimal impact on my paper as it did with my film appetite. Something more like The Great Dictator is where I will be able to extract great analysis and great viewing experiences.

**1/2

Commentary on anti-Semitism: The Dreyfus Affair is something that we have discussed in my class and something that has obvious anti-Semitic implications. The film, while a chronicle of the life of Emile Zola and not Alfred Dreyfus, deals heavily with the controversial issue at the turn of the century. In the film the anti-Semitism bit is played up, but only for a moment when the general accuses his as being the one who has committed treason for sure, noting the line on his bio which indicated his religion: Jew. Apart from this small moment in the film, Dreyfus' faith is not discussed, but the damage had already been done. The French had used Dreyfus as a Jewish scapegoat and let Esterhazy run free until finally a good man, Emile Zola, stood up to defend him alongside his wife Lucie. In the end, Dreyfus was freed and cleared of charges, but the time he spent on Devil's Island cannot be given back and the anti-Semitic views of his accusers still exist, whether the final truth came out or not.
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