Jewish Film Festival: Planetarium isn’t much to look up to

I caught an 8:45 SF Jewish Film Festival screening of Planetarium Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t worth watching. The story was absurd, and worse, its execution was dull and boring. Only one of the three main characters was at all interesting, and we never really got to know her.

The film follows the adventures of two American sisters living in France in the 1930s, making their living through the supernatural powers they either have or can fake. They’re mediums, helping people “contact” their dead loved ones.

Natalie Portman – the film’s big star – is the much older, more mature sister. She takes care of her teenaged sibling (Lily-Rose Depp), who appears to have only one foot in the real world. This strange, fragile blonde is the one who has, or thinks she has, the powers to summon up the dead.

A movie studio head (Emmanuel Salinger) hires them for a private séance, and becomes obsessed with them – although apparently not in a sexual way. He sets out to turn them into movie stars, and dedicates himself to photographing their paranormal projections.

As I said, the story is absurd.

How is this a Jewish movie? The studio head is Jewish – common in America, but rare in France, especially back then. Near the film’s end, anti-Semitism raises its ugly head. And, of course, you can’t help wondering what will happen to the three main characters after 1940. At least you would wonder about it if the characters were believable.

I give Planetarium a D.

And by the way, there’s no planetarium in the movie.

This film will screen one more time before the Festival closes: Friday, August 4, at 8:35, at the Rafael.

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