The lighter side of the JFF

As the Jerusalem Film Festival heads into its second week, don't aim for the mainstream hits.

marianne faithfull 298.8 (photo credit: courtesy)
marianne faithfull 298.8
(photo credit: courtesy)
Some moviegoers will go to the 24th Jerusalem Film Festival, which runs through July 14 at the newly renovated Jerusalem Cinematheque (as well as at various theaters throughout the city) to see the most thought-provoking movies on serious and controversial topics. Others just want to have fun. If you'd like to balance the more somber festival fare with star power, laughs, a little action and just plain good storytelling, here are a few suggestions. But remember, it doesn't make much sense to go to a festival to see mainstream movies such as the comedy Knocked Up or the drama The Good German starring George Clooney, since these films will open throughout the country soon. But there are many other equally entertaining films that you can catch which may or may not open here commercially. Director Tom DiCillo is known for his off-beat comedies, such as Living in Oblivion and The Real Blonde. Now he's back with Delirious, a look at the unlikely friendships that develop among three New Yorkers: a paparazzi photographer, a homeless man and a pop diva. It stars Steve Buscemi, the indie-movie king (and former New York City fireman) who also directed and stars in the film Interview, which tells the story of a fading political journalist assigned to interview a soap opera star (Sienna Miller). Admirers of the novels of psychotherapist Irvin Yalom will want to see an adaptation of his historical novel When Nietzsche Wept, starring Armand Assante and Ben Cross. Israeli actress Michal Yannai (best known for her role on Hashminya) has a key role and looks great in period costume. It's well known by now that Japanese animated films are often aimed at adults, and Satoshi Kon's Paprika is the latest example. Kon, known for his visually stunning work, has made a movie about a futuristic gadget that enables psychotherapists to penetrate patients' dreams. One of the prototypes is stolen, and a sexy police inspector and mysterious redhead get involved. There are several programs of "the best of" both Israeli and international animated films. Even if you're not usually an animation fan, you'll enjoy Norman McLaren: The Retrospective, 13 short films by the legendary and innovative Canadian animator, including Pas de Deux and Blinkety Blank. The French call their stars "vedettes," and two of them have joined the ranks of Hollywood headliners by becoming directors: Julie Delpy and Jane Birkin. Delpy, who starred in the American romances Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, has made her own romantic comedy, Deux Jours a Paris. She stars in it as a Frenchwoman living in New York with a hypochondriac boyfriend played by Adam Goldberg (The Hebrew Hammer). The couple tries to rekindle their troubled relationship by visiting Paris together. The celebrated French/British actress/singer Jane Birkin wrote, directed and stars in Boxes, the story of a woman who rethinks her life when she moves to the Brittany coast. It features a supporting cast of top-notch European actors including Michel Piccoli, Geraldine Chaplin, John Hurt, Lou Doillon and newcomer Natacha Regnier. If you enjoy seeing France's hottest new actors, then catch Benoit Jacquot's The Untouchable, which features rising star Isild Le Besco as a woman who discovers that her hippie mother had an affair with an Indian man, who is her real father. She takes off for India to find him. The name Marianne Faithfull may conjure up images of a waif-like beauty on Mick Jagger's arm, but Faithfull has reinvented herself several times, first as a cabaret singer and now as a serious actress. She stars in Irina Palm, the story of a London grandmother who becomes a prostitute to pay for her grandson's medical treatment - and who better to play a granny call girl? The film may sound grim, but it was an audience favorite at the Berlin Film Festival. Movies, actors and music are the subject of several intriguing new documentaries. It was just three years ago that Marlon Brando died, but his movies live on, of course, and now his brilliant career and troubled life are the subject of Brando. Director John Ford, known for Westerns such as Stagecoach, left his stamp on classics in other genres, such as How Green Was My Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. He is the subject of Directed by John Ford, which was made by Peter Bogdanovich, the director/film critic/actor whose star burned brightly in the Seventies with such films as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, although younger viewers may know him as Dr. Melfi's advisor on The Sopranos. Rabble-rousing documentary maker Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine) has just made a film about the US health-care industry, Sicko. While Sicko/i> won't be in the festival, lots of moviegoers have gotten sick of the director's self-regard and may want to see Manufacturing Dissent, a critical look at Moore himself. Andy Warhol, the late artist/filmmaker/huckster, continues to fascinate, and you can learn more about him in Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, a comprehensive look at his life and times. Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women directed by Rachel Talbot, focuses on six women who've made audiences laugh: Yiddish theater star Molly Picon; Fanny Brice, Ziegfeld Follies star; Sophie Tucker, singer, actress and comic; Joan Rivers, who started out as a comedy writer and stand-up comedian before she began critiquing red-carpet outfits; Gilda Radner, the hilarious Saturday Night Live star; and playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Fans of the Dixie Chicks will want to see Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing. Co-directed by celebrated documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck (Gregory's daughter), the film looks at the controversy these singers stirred up by criticizing George W. Bush. Alexander Sokurov, one of the most prolific and well-regarded Russian filmmakers (Russian Ark), has made a series of what he calls documentary elegies, and the latest is Elegy of Life. Rostropovich. Vishnevskaya. It's about the lives of cellist, pianist and conductor Rostropovich and his wife, opera singer Galina Pavlovana Vishnevskaya. This week also marks the return of the festival's Moonlight Cinema series of free outdoor screenings of mainstream releases, nightly at 8:15 at the Old Train Station complex. While the subject-matter might not be as esoteric as other festival screenings, it's hard to argue with a summer event that is both free and outdoors. Monday's screening features Spider-Man 3, with Tuesday bringing us Aviva My Love, Surfs Up on Wednesday and Beaufort on Thursday. If none of these films grab you, just remember: There are at least another 150 to choose from. And for non-projected entertainment, the festival presents free live music performances at the Cinematheque plaza, nightly at 9:30. Along with plenty of other information, the JFF's full schedule can be perused at Tickets can be ordered at (02) 565-4350.