Friday, January 10, 2014

The Jewish Cardinal (2012) New York Jewish Film festival

Excellent look at Jean-Marie Lustiger who was born Jewish and became a cardinal in the Catholic Church. He had converted to Catholicism in 1940 in order to keep him safe from the Nazis. It kept him safe but it caused splits within his family (his father couldn’t see how he could become a priest) and within himself (he still considered himself Jewish despite following in Christ’s footsteps)

Beginning just before he finds out that he has been made a Bishop and taking him to his death in 2007 this is a moving portrait of a man just trying to find his place in the world and his path to God. It’s a path filled with road blocks, confusion and uncertainty as he has to struggle with what he feels is right, what the church tells him is right and how the world perceives him to be.

Made for French television the film isn’t a huge epic story but a small scale story of one man on the road. Its a story that is firmly focused on Lustiger and his inner conflict. That the film works so well is do wholly to Laurent Lucas as Lustiger. He manages to sell the character/the man much better than many of the other actors playing other high ranking Church officials. He manages to let us in on both the humor and the conflict in the man. He allows us to see his choices and reflect upon them. As good as Lucas is some of the others seem to be walking through their roles with Aurélien Recoing as Pope John Paul coming off as weird and in one or two scenes as if he were aping Roberto Benigni.

This is a super little film. I really liked it. It was so good that when it was done I ended up much too late reading on the life of Lustiger on line. For me what set sets the film apart is that it isn’t really about being Jewish or Catholic or both, but its about finding one’s self spiritually, it’s the reflection of the journey that makes this a great film since it’s a journey that we all, to some degree make.

This is one of the best films at the Jewish Film Festival. This is definitely worth seeing when it plays tomorrow afternoon, the 14th and the 20th

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