Unhappy marriages: Thursday night at the Jewish Film Festival

Thursday night, I caught two movies at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. One was very good. One was very bad.

No filmmakers attended their films at the Albany Twin that night. That’s normal after the Festival moves from San Francisco to the East Bay.

A- Personal Affairs

This surprisingly sad comedy looks at a quietly dysfunctional couple – one that apparently has been dysfunctional for decades. The movie is very funny, but in a quiet, deadpan way. The couple never show anger, or any emotion, and communicate to each other by doing little things that annoy their mate. No wonder their grown children moved as far away as possible; one all the way to Sweden. Not surprisingly, their offspring have their own relationship problem, although none of them are as badly off – or as funny – at their parents.

Personal Affairs has one major flaw: A story thread left the audience hanging. We don’t know if one likeable and apparently happy character has committed suicide, killed himself accidentally, or is happy and healthy.

How is this a Jewish movie? The family is Palestinian, and aside from the son in Sweden, they all live in Israel or in the West Bank. The only Jews we meet are in the army. I guess any film set and shot in Israel is to some extent a Jewish film.

You have one more chance to see Personal Affairs before the Festival closes on Sunday. You can see it today (Friday), 6:30, at the Rafael.

There was a dinner at a local restaurant after the film. My wife and I didn’t attend; we watched the next movie, instead. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake.

D- Fritz Lang

I don’t know if this fictional version of the creation of M is historical accurate, and I don’t care. But I do care if it’s believable, dramatic, and interesting. Fritz Lang fails on all of these points. Heino Ferch isn’t convincing in the lead role. The plot revolves around Lang’s research into the real-life serial murder case that inspired the great director’s masterful first talkie. That would be fine, but the filmmakers want us to believe that the police let Lang constantly watch over their shoulders during the biggest case in all of their careers. The only good scenes involved his troubled marriage with screenwriter Thea von Harbou. Now that relationship could make a great movie!

Every so often, director Gordian Maugg cuts to real footage, mostly silent, of pre-Nazi Germany. It didn’t cut well with the new scenes made for this movie – even though Maugg made Fritz Lange in black and white and the old-fashioned, narrow, 1.33×1 aspect ratio.

How is this a Jewish film? Lang’s mother was born Jewish, but converted to Catholicism. That makes him Jewish in the most technical way possible, even though he was raised and remained Catholic. The film has a few references to anti-Semitism and one scene with Nazis.

This was the last screening of Fritz Lang at the Festival.