Adina Hoffman

Adina Hoffman is the film critic for The Jerusalem Post and
the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood.

Recent Articles

You Say You Want a Revolution

E ric Rohmer's films are notoriously talky. In his Six Moral Tales , Comedies and Proverbs , and Tales of the Four Seasons cycles, the restlessly sexy, searching characters spend most of their time lounging on lawn chairs and engaging one another in meandering, often faltering, philosophical exchanges on topics from temptation and renunciation to the charms of lettuce. The eighteenth-century nobles in Rohmer's remarkable new movie, The Lady and the Duke , also converse almost nonstop. Though the sound of their more formal back-and-forth lacks the easy flow of his moderns' chatter, it does seem to well up from the same dialectical spring that irrigates almost all of Rohmer's pictures. And as the movie unfolds it prompts in the audience a dithering and rather, well, Rohmerian back-and-forth. I spent the length of the picture arguing with myself about Rohmer's politics and his aesthetic, wondering: Is the director a flaming radical or flaming reactionary? A cinematic pioneer or filmic...

The Big Bash Theory

M ira Nair's new comic melodrama Monsoon Wedding opens with a shot of a frowning man trying to prop up a traditional Indian marigold bower, then flits straight to his agitated cordless-phone conversation with a clownish "event manager." As we soon learn, the frowning man is Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah), a well-to-do New Delhi suburbanite, and the event is the arranged marriage of his only daughter to an engineer who lives in Houston. Within seconds, the underlying theme of this likable if somehow scatterbrained movie -- the fusion and occasional confusion of ancient and modern, local and global, solemn and silly -- has already been established. The director and her screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan are, if anything, too up-front about their mix-and-match motif. They render it blunter than it need be, as they push just a little too hard to make the bourgeois Verma family absolutely typical of their class and culture. The film teeters on the edge of upbeat sociology. "Just because India has...

Postcards From the Edge

O rphaned Cambodian amputees, Bosnian war widows, prepubescent Liberian soldiers, Rwandan rape victims forced to bear and raise the children of their attackers. . . . The upcoming Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (which will travel to Boston, New York, Berkeley, and London over the course of the next few months) plunges viewers headlong into an ocean of misery so vast and so dark, we feel ourselves drowning. And yet, paradoxically, such a festival gives hope as it brings both perspective and reality--albeit reality in its harsher forms--back to the movies. This is anti-escapism at its best, a collection of probing accounts of people whose poise in the face of calamity is often, to say the least, stirring. Some of these tributes shine a spotlight on the tireless, lifelong labors of renowned figures like United Nations diplomat, civil-rights campaigner, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, whose story is told in William Greaves's straight but vivid biographical movie...

You Don't Have to Be Jewish

A description of sandi Simcha DuBowski's documentary Trembling Before G-d sounds like the start of a bad ethnic joke: Did you hear the one about the gay Orthodox Jew? The film, however, is no joke at all, as it focuses on the dire plight of religiously devout Jewish homosexuals. Shot in ghoulish yellow shades, the movie is also no great shakes at the stylistic level. Both visually and verbally, in fact, it's remarkably ugly--informed, it seems, by the no-frills aesthetic, or anti-aesthetic, that characterizes much of contemporary Orthodox life. Many of DuBowski's subjects appear uneasy in their bodies. The women, in particular, tend to be overweight or draped in huge, tentlike outfits. And most of the people interviewed speak the ingrown, unrefined language of the modern Ashkenazi ghetto. DuBowski relies on the usual parade of talking heads and on a series of rather sentimental shots of Jerusalem at sunset and other illustrative sequences showing "typical" religious scenes in...

Sex, Lies, Etc.

S et in a single, grim Michigan motel room, Richard Linklater's latest film, Tape, has an air of let's-put-on-a-movie spontaneity--and concentration--that's often missing from contemporary American pictures. This refreshing charge derives in part from the film's terse concept (a trio of high-school friends are reunited 10 years after graduation), but it also comes from the low-cost, less-fuss new digital video technology that Linklater is toying with here. The film's scruffy surface is, though, deceptive. Linklater's dramatic approach is quite sophisticated, and Tape, for all its mumbled dialogue and pseudo-verité camera work, is actually a work of clever calculation, its apparently raw energy drawn from a careful balance of chance and choice, state-of-the-art materials and traditional narrative techniques. And however "ordinary" the people in the film are meant to be, the fact that two of them are played by Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, downtown glamour couple par excellence, only...

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