There are a number of special film programs to mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Rembrance Day) this week. On Monday, the first part of Claude Lanzmann's highly praised documentary, Shoah, is showing at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at 9:15 p.m. and on Tuesday in the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 6 p.m. Part two will be shown in Jerusalem on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The film is being released this week on DVD by Solaris Digital. Keep in mind that each part is over four hours.
Throughout the month, the Sderot Cinematheque is showing Paul Verhoeven's racy World War II thriller, Black Book, about a Jewish woman who passes for Christian and has an affair with a Nazi commander to help the Resistance.
On Sunday night, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is showing two recent Holocaust-themed documentaries for free. At 6 p.m., Helga Hirsch's Coffee Beans for Life will be screened. It tells the story of Norman Salsitz, a Holocaust survivor who has made his home in the US since 1945, who journeys back to Poland at the age of 84 with his daughter and grandsons. They visit both his former home and the concentration camp where most of his family was murdered. In the other auditorium at the same time, Bodi Vardan's Phantom Pain will be shown in the presence of the director. It tells the story of a group of retired Israelis, none of them Holocaust survivors, who take a trip to Poland to see sites of Jewish interest.
FROM NOW until the end of April, the Jerusalem Cinematheque will be showing the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, the movie based on former US Vice President Al Gore's slide show presentation about global warming. On most nights, there will three screenings of the film, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary this year, as well as, oddly, for Best Song, by Melissa Etheridge.
ALTHOUGH THERE was some interest here in the new movie starring Hilary Swank, The Reaping, because it focuses on a small town in Louisiana that is hit by the ten Biblical plagues mentioned in the Pesach story, it turns out that Bible scholars will be disappointed: The movie got uniformly awful reviews. Claudia Puig in USA Today wondered why two-time Oscar winner Swank "would have agreed to star in such a laughably bad movie." It costars British actor/director David Morrissey, who, trivia fans will be interested to know, is married to Esther Freud, the actress and author of the novel, Hideous Kinky, who is the great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and the daughter of painter Lucien Freud.
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE making waves in the US is Grindhouse. A grindhouse was a small downtown movie theater that showed exploitation movies on double bills in the Sixties and Seventies, movies by people like schlockmeister Roger Corman that, for example, would show a psycho stalking shapely nurses. When I was growing up, the Times Square area of New York was filled with such theaters. Now they're long gone and that kind of film, when it still exists, goes directly to DVD. But it turns out some people are nostalgic for the grindhouse era, and directors Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, the Spy Kids movies) are among them. They've teamed up to make Grindhouse, a tribute to these films. It's two 80-minute films, Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, about a psycho stuntman (Kurt Russell), who kills beautiful women, and Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, about a one-legged woman (Rose McGowan) who fights a zombie invasion. In addition, there are four fake trailers, which are said to be the best part of the movie. Tarantino's film has gotten much better reviews than Rodriguez's, but people who want to see this movie won't care about the reviews. The movie was made so that the print looks grainy and scratched and New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott suggests that if you wait to see it at home on DVD, you should "bring in a few drunks off the street to mutter and snore. It'll be just like the old days." There is a precedent, of sorts, for this: the 1978 Stanley Donen film, Movie Movie, which featured two classic old movie parody/tributes, one a boxing melodrama, the other a musical.