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

Makhmalbaf's Moment

I n the remarkable opening moments of a 1995 film by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a cameraman sits on the roof of a car as it makes its way slowly through a mob of Tehrani males--most of them thin, mustachioed, hungry-eyed. The camera records, the throng pushes and swells, and soon a near-riot breaks out as pieces of paper are tossed over the bobbing heads and the crowd surges forward to catch them, a vast field of upthrust arms flailing in furious unison. A needy-looking mass of women in black chadors also grabs at the papers, and soon the sex-segregated horde has literally stormed the gates of a palace and is stampeding onward, trampling and nearly injuring in the process several of its members who have fainted. For an American viewer--and, I'd wager a cautious guess, for native Persians themselves, since Makhmalbaf has stated in various interviews that he makes movies first and foremost for his own people, and not for export to the West--the sight of these desperate...

Thought for Food

S everal of my favorite and most tattered books are cookbooks, and when I visit a foreign country, one of my first purchases is usually a volume of recipes, which (if the book is good) provides a sort of sensory shortcut into the heart of the place and people in question. Some travelers rely on maps to orient them, others on their Michelin or Lonely Planet guides, but I did not feel I'd truly arrived in Turkey, for example, until I'd read up on the subtle but oh-so-important distinctions between the sweets known as Vizier's Fingers, Beauty's Lips, and Lady's Navel. As one who considers cooking, eating, reading, and writing part of the same cultural continuum, I have, however, begun to despair in recent years. On the one hand, more words than ever are being generated on the subject of food, and food writers, so called, enjoy huge audiences and profits (next to books about cat-rearing, I have heard, cookbooks are the best-selling category in U.S. publishing today). On the other hand,...

Don't Look Back

A fter several millennia's worth of Orpheus-and-Eurydice stories, it stands to reason that Brazilian director Carlos Diegues's contemporary filmic retelling of the myth, called simply Orfeu , feels like a trip inside a formidable echo chamber. Most distantly, Diegues's movie rejoins the Orpheus tales of Aeschylus, Virgil, and especially Ovid, whose love-struck, lyre-playing Thracian was a big hit with the trees, which "came crowding where the poet sang." Needless to say, none of the many species that Ovid lists in such loving detail--"The silver poplar and the bronze-leaved oak, / The swaying lina, beechnut, maiden-laurel, / Delicate hazel and spear-making ash"--exist in the squalid Rio slums where Diegues's film is set. Then again, the movie's harsh urban backdrop is so very far from the pastoral placement of Ovid's Metamorphoses that the contrast itself comes to seem a kind of ironic negative-reference. (Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus also picks up the arboreal theme, and opens, "There...

Home and the World

T he two main characters in South African playwright Athol Fugard's classic chamber drama Boesman & Lena are a poor mixed-race couple. Their shanty has been razed by the "whiteman's bulldozers," leaving them to wander the dismal mudflats near Port Elizabeth, and as the play opens Boesman picks a spot for the night by silently dumping all his worldly goods on the ground. "Here?" asks needy, haggard Lena, who seems unsure just how she has arrived at this place--both geographically and emotionally. Later she demands to know why they've made such an effort to reach this dreary spot. "Why did we walk so hard? In a hurry to get here? 'Here' ... What's here?" Perhaps the most striking thing about the new movie version of Boesman & Lena is the way that her question has outlasted the sociopolitical context of the play's 1969 composition. Without altering Fugard's text in any substantial way, the late screenwriter and director John Berry (who died at age 82, when...

Cockeyed Caravan

T he new movie by Joel and Ethan Coen, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a picaresque comic strip "based"--as the credits inform us with the filmmakers' trademark brand of knowing tongue-in-cheekiness--"upon The Odyssey by Homer." Set in the Deep South during the Depression, the movie does borrow certain figures from the ancient Greek epic (several sirens, the Cyclops, Penelope), but in relating the adventures of its trio of bumbling heroes, escaped convicts from a chain gang, the Coens also invoke other, less-than-classical sources, including The Beverly Hillbillies , Bonnie and Clyde, and, at times, Mad magazine. This happy-go-lucky pastiche mode is nothing new for the Coens (Joel writes and directs, Ethan writes and produces): Their work is almost always constructed of nods to, or winks at, other movies, books, cultural fads. Working the sometimes questionable line between homage and parody, the Coens have played over the years with borrowings from...

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