7 Days in The Arts
Saturday, February 25
Havdallah includes a redemption song tonight. Following services at Beit T’Shuvah, con man turned rabbi Mark Borovitz talks to Rabbi Ed Feinstein about his story, as outlined in his bestselling book “The Holy Thief,” newly released in paperback.
5:30 p.m. (havdallah), 6:30 p.m. (conversation). Free. 8831 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 204-5200.
Sunday, February 26
Sephardic culture is placed center stage in this weekend’s colloquium at Cal State University Long Beach, titled “My Heart Is in the East and I in the Uttermost West.” The weekend begins with a concert of Ladino music by Vanessa Paloma and Jordan Charnofsky on Saturday, continues today with various lectures and closes with a presentation this evening on Sephardic musical traditions in Italy, Corfu, Salonica and the New World.
Saturday: 8 p.m. $5-$50. Sunday: Noon-8:30 p.m. Free. Locations on CSULB campus vary. (562) 985-4423. www.csulb.edu/programs/jewish-studies.
Monday, February 27
Jewish lit maven and Tel Aviv University professor Hana Wirth-Nesher visits us this week. Tonight, see her presentation on the writings of Grace Paley as part of the Jewish Community Library and The Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Book Salon. Tomorrow, USC Casden Institute sponsors her talk on “The Accented Imagination: Speaking and Writing Jewish America” at Temple Emanuel.
Tuesday, February 28
In theaters now is Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film of the year, “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.” The film tells the true story of the German anti-Nazi activist and heroine, and has already garnered awards in Germany — its country of origin — as well as three European Film Awards.
Laemmle Theaters: Town Center, Encino; Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Monica 4, Santa Monica; Playhouse, Pasadena. Â
Wednesday, March 1 The controversial, and now out of hiding, Salman Rushdie, is tonight’s star of the Music Center Speaker Series. The Indian-born British author’s public appearances are rare, but he speaks this evening in conjunction with his newly released novel of magic realism, “Shalimar the Clown.” 8 p.m. $45-$200. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 271-6631. www.ticketmaster.com. Thursday, March 2 Hillel at UCLA and the Daniel Pearl Foundation present a Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture by Larry King, on “The Art and Science of the Interview: Musings About Everything.” Hear King speak live and in person, in a talk moderated by law professor Laurie Levenson. 7:30 p.m. Donation requested. Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, Lee and Irving Kalsman Campus, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext 107. R.S.V.P. by Feb. 27, www.uclahillel.org. Friday, March 3 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy with a little help from National Jewish Outreach Program. The group has organized the 10th annual “Shabbat Across America” tonight, which will have thousands of Jews across the country and Canada participating in the rituals of Shabbat prayer and dinner. Many L.A.-area synagogues are taking part, so see their Web site to find one near you. (888) 742-2228. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Wednesday, March 1
The controversial, and now out of hiding, Salman Rushdie, is tonight’s star of the Music Center Speaker Series. The Indian-born British author’s public appearances are rare, but he speaks this evening in conjunction with his newly released novel of magic realism, “Shalimar the Clown.”
8 p.m. $45-$200. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 271-6631. www.ticketmaster.com.
Thursday, March 2
Hillel at UCLA and the Daniel Pearl Foundation present a Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture by Larry King, on “The Art and Science of the Interview: Musings About Everything.” Hear King speak live and in person, in a talk moderated by law professor Laurie Levenson.
7:30 p.m. Donation requested. Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, Lee and Irving Kalsman Campus, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext 107. R.S.V.P. by Feb. 27, www.uclahillel.org.
Friday, March 3
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy with a little help from National Jewish Outreach Program. The group has organized the 10th annual “Shabbat Across America” tonight, which will have thousands of Jews across the country and Canada participating in the rituals of Shabbat prayer and dinner. Many L.A.-area synagogues are taking part, so see their Web site to find one near you.
(888) 742-2228. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
7 Days in The Arts
Spectator – Movie for ‘Rent’
More people can afford “Rent” this month, thanks to Revolution Studios. The production company brings a film version of the Jonathan Larson rock opera to movie theaters this week, directed by Chris Columbus and starring most of the original Broadway cast.
Set against the backdrop of New York’s East Village in the late 1980s, and based on Puccini’s opera, “La Boheme,” “Rent” tells the story of bohemian artist friends struggling with poverty, heartbreak, drug addiction and AIDS.
Perhaps because of its gritty, real themes and characters, the show has been credited with generating interest among younger generations in musical theater. “Rent” is currently the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history, with a fan base affectionately called “Rentheads.”
Notably absent from the film creation is show creator Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm on the eve of the play’s first preview. Larson’s sister, Julie, is the film’s co-producer, which should ease fans’ minds about the filmmakers’ desire to do justice to a show that has won both Pulitzer and Tony awards.
Indeed, the sound and feel of Broadway’s “Rent” are intact, even while the music assumes a slightly edgier rock core, and some dialogue is spoken rather than sung.
Jewish Rentheads can also rest easy, as the little nods and throwaway lines Larson wrote for Jewish character Mark Cohen are still there, too. Mark still mentions his bar mitzvah, and talks about learning to tango with Nanette Himmelfarb, the rabbi’s daughter at the Scarsdale Jewish Community Center.
The filmmakers also kept the part where Mark’s mom calls him on Christmas to wish him a happy holiday. That may sound strange, but actor Anthony Rapp, who reprises the role from Broadway, explained that Mark’s character was drawn from Larson’s own experience.
“I know that Jonathan did celebrate Christmas in their house, but I think they also had a menorah,” Rapp said.
This loyalty to Larson’s vision is a hallmark of the film.
“We’re here to serve Jonathan and the play,” said Tracie Thoms, who plays Joanne in the film. “And we’re here to serve all the fans who were touched and moved and saved by the play.”
“Rent” opens in theaters Nov. 23.
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‘Down’ on the Valley
“I still feel uncomfortable going back to the Valley,” 43-year-old filmmaker David Jacobson said. “To this day, I associate it with my childhood sense of feeling lost and lonely in a stark landscape. When I begin going over the 405, my spirits just start to drop.”
Jacobson’s acclaimed new film, “Down in the Valley” — which opens the Los Angeles Film Festival June 16 — draws on his memories of desolation without and within. His parents divorced when he was 2; his older brother died in a car accident when he was 13; and the introverted boy suffered nightmares and fear of the dark upon moving into a Van Nuys tract home next to the 101. “The freeway, which we heard day and night, was an ominous presence, a violent place where hurtling steel rushed past you like bullets,” he said. “We played in empty, weedy lots.”
Jacobson’s isolation was exacerbated because he discerned no historical or cultural continuity with which to connect. Since his family was secular, he said, he had no Jewish education to help him feel part of a community and guide him through rites of passage. His bar mitzvah, in a sense, was moving in with his father after his brother’s death.
His memories led him to create “Down in the Valley,” starring Edward Norton as a delusional man who claims to be a cowboy with a mysterious past. Harlan Fairfax Carruthers (Norton) drifts from the Tujunga Wash to a Chasidic neighborhood as he pursues a dangerous friendship with two latchkey kids who regard him as a hero. Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), a rebellious teenager, and 11-year-old Lonnie (Rory Culkin), who suffers a crippling fear of the dark, also wander aimlessly through vacant lots, strip malls, freeway overpasses and fast-food joints.
Like the director’s previous films, “Criminal” (1994) and “Dahmer” (2002), “Valley,” in part, is a disquieting portrait of a man unable to function within normal society. So it’s jarring to meet the bespectacled director, who seems more like a nice Jewish boy than the creator of distressing, if lauded dramas. He is mild-mannered and friendly, despite spending 16-hour days trimming “Valley” after Cannes reviewers called it “breathtaking” but overlong. (Variety called him a “prodigiously talented” filmmaker.) Without a trace of bitterness, he said his work places him on the margins of American independent cinema, which veers more toward the quirky than the profoundly disturbing.
It was while braving multiple rejections for his understated serial killer film, “Dahmer,” around 1999 that he started writing his latest film in France — one of the many places he has lived to escape the Valley. He currently lives in Hollywood.
Since he had identified with the isolation of Dahmer’s youth (but not with his perversities), he decided to “return to the personal in an even more direct way, by exploring my childhood,” he said.
Jacobson wrote much of “Valley’s” first draft in an 18th century rococo library in Paris: “Had I been in Los Angeles, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it, so having all that physical and emotional distance helped,” he said.
While writing, Jacobson attended a series of classic Western films, and the myths and images flowed into his story. “I wanted to depict the parallels between the bleak vistas and lifestyles portrayed in the Westerns and the modest West where I lived,” he said. “Growing up in the Valley, there was this sense of solitude, the constant fear of attack and the need of a hero to save me.”
To capture flat Valley spaces that retain old West emptiness, Jacobson decided to shoot the movie in anamorphic widescreen. But while scouting locations, he discovered the kind of childhood scenarios he remembered had moved to the North Valley. In Arleta, he found the tract home with cinderblock and overgrown palm trees that served as the children’s house. Harlan, for a time, inhabits rural Sunland, where bucolic ranches also harbor “abandoned junky cars, power lines and trailers — a weird netherland that’s both urban and rural,” he said.
While scrolling through the images in a dim Los Angeles editing room, Jacobson said the story eventually became less about the Valley than children left alone to complete rites of passage. “When they are left to their own devices, it doesn’t usually have the best ending,” he said.
The 263 movies in the Los Angeles Film Festival, June 16-26, of which The Jewish Journal is a promotional affiliate, include three Israeli films focusing on women’s issues: Raphael Nadjari’s “Avanim” depicts a young wife’s resistance to a claustrophobic, male-dominated culture; Eran Riklis’ “The Syrian Bride” tells of an Israeli Druze who cannot return to her village once she crosses the border to marry her Syrian fiance; and Anat Zuria’s documentary, “Sentenced to Marriage,” traces three Orthodox wives’ battles to divorce abusive husbands. For tickets and information, call (866) 345-6337 or visit www.lafilmfest.com.
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