Contemplate a canon of American Jewish films

“Liberty Heights,” set shortly after, looks at another Jewish family, the Kurtzmans, but is less insular. It occasionally, awkwardly, explores a budding romance between their teenage son (Ben Foster) and a black classmate (Rebekah Johnson) at his newly integrated school, unpacking the different variations of discrimination they encounter and the intolerance of their families. .

The Coen brothers, true to themselves, go in a more philosophical direction, with their apocalyptic story of a Jewish professor in Minnesota, “A Serious Man” (2009). Opening with an anecdotal sequence involving an evil spirit known as a dybbuk, the Coens tell their story – the existential quest of a schmuck (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose wife wants a ritual divorce known as “get” – in folklore, though defined in 1967, uniting Jewish spirituality with a dark, comedic look at Jewish existence in Central America.

As for Gray and Spielberg, this isn’t the first time either director has made a film about Jews. But their new dramas examine their own Jewish upbringings, even creating versions of themselves. For Goldman, it’s a sign of the times. “I think what you’re seeing is the change that we’ve felt since I would say 2015 and the sense of vulnerability that I would say most American Jews didn’t feel before that,” he said in a statement. interview. “I think it had a huge impact in forcing artists in general, but filmmakers to look at themselves within a broad American society. »

By featuring similar-looking families roughly a generation apart, the two films come to very different conclusions. Gray, an inherently more pessimistic filmmaker, blames himself, seeing his budding teenage years through the prism of a friendship between his replacement, Paul (Banks Repeta), and a black classmate, Johnny (Jaylin Webb).

Spielberg’s reaction to the anti-Semitism he encountered in his youth is messy but ultimately more optimistic. A teenager Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) encounters bullies, but armed with a camera on Senior Ditch Day, he paints one of them as an Aryan dream ship, a god of gold. The jock is jerked. He doesn’t understand why Sam would do this, and Sam isn’t so sure either, but Spielberg recognizes the power of a camera to change hearts with images.

Throughout his career, Spielberg has constructed images synonymous with Americana — from Indiana Jones to suburban kids riding bikes in “ET.” In “The Fabelmans,” he uses some of these same tricks. But the Fabelmans are not like every other all-American family. Their house is the only dark one in the New Jersey neighborhood at Christmas time.

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Contemplate a canon of American Jewish films