Sunday, January 5, 2014
The play Romeo and Juliet has been translated around the world. Now Eve Annenberg's gritty, funny feature film, Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish, sets William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in contemporary New York City with Brooklyn-inflected English and Yiddish spoken by a talented cast. The movie has English subtitles.
The film is available from Amazon.com as a DVD and as an Amazon Instant Video rental.
Ava, a wisecracking middle-aged emergency room nurse-and bitterly lapsed Orthodox Jew-undertakes a translation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in her pursuit of a Master's degree. In over her head, she accepts help from some charismatic and ethically challenged (a.k.a. scamming) young Ultra Orthodox dropouts, Lazer and Mendy.
When another ex-Orthodox man enchants her apartment with Kabbalah magic that he is leaking, the young men begin to live Shakespeare's play in their heads, in a gauzy and beautiful alternate reality where everyone is Orthodox. In what might be the first Yiddish 'mumblecore' film, Annenberg creates a parallel universe (set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn), where Romeo and Juliet hail from divergent streams of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and speak their lines in street-smart Yiddish.
The Bard may have never dreamed of the Montagues as Satmar Jews, but in this magical rendition, the story of feuding Orthodox families is strangely believable and timeless. The director conjures Chabadnicks (Lubavitch) as Capulets; the distinctions are subtle but astute viewers will be tickled by the detail. As they start to 'modernize' and act in the archaic play, the young men fall under its rapturous incantation.
Annenberg's meditation on life and love yields a rapprochement between Secular and ultra Orthodox Worlds and a compelling New York love story. By the end of this 92-minute confection-set to euphoric compositions by Joel Diamond, Lior, and Basya Schecter-family is redefined, Shakespeare evaluated, Ava is happier, and the viewer understands a little Yiddish. A delightful meditation on love and family-if the issues are not yet solved, they linger in the air like a little Kabbalah magic.
While the film is not rated, it does have some brief nudity and includes some F and S words, so we wanted to warn you in case you find that to be objectionable. The trailer, which doesn't include these scenes, is shown below.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)