Eric Thal and Melanie Griffith in the “essential” A Stranger Among Us.
Over at Bang it Out, a Jewish website, film critic Jordan Hiller has, for the past few weeks, been compiling a list of The 25 Essential Jewish Movies. His selections are limited to films that are easily available for rental or purchase. Thus, he focuses exclusively on modern and contemporary movies. Naturally, the silent classic, The Golem 1920, does not appear on the list, nor does the amazing and obscure Ricardo Cortez, Irene Dunne vehicle Symphony of Six Million 1932, one of my very favorite Jewish movies.
It’s an interesting list, with Hiller’s fascinating and knowledgeable commentary. My 1992 film A Stranger Among Us, with Melanie Griffith and Eric Thal, directed by the great Sidney Lumet, comes in at #5.
Hiller writes a generous review of the movie—he’s got keen insights into what I was trying to accomplish—and there’s an interview with yours truly in which I discuss the how-to’s of selling such a difficult project in Hollywood.
Robert (Body Double) Avrech infuses his wonderfully original and daring script with one startlingly insightful moment after another. What could easily have been another irritatingly earnest, clueless depiction of orthodox Jewish stereotypes, unfolds as an involving, challenging, and (most importantly) respectful treatment of our oft misrepresented religion.
Over and above this unique achievement, Mr. Avrech allows for a film to be established which expresses an affection and profound understanding of Judaism while never becoming cloying, overbearing, or false hearted.
The film subtly enlightens its audience regarding not only very intricate Jewish practices and customs (hafrashat challah, payos, kabbalah, shidduchim), but issues ranging from theology to history to tradition. And it does so with a natural flow of dialogue and emotion between truly human, unconventional characters who struggle with every day dilemmas as well as their religious awareness (or obliviousness).
To read the entire article, please go to Bang it Out.