Magazine article Tablet Magazine

What Makes a Film Jewish?

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

What Makes a Film Jewish?

Article excerpt

On the occasion of Tablet Magazine's 100 Greatest Jewish Movies list, film critic Daphne Merkin weighs in.

What makes a film Jewish? Aside from the obvious identifying characteristic of a specifically Jewish theme, can a film "feel" Jewish because of its sensibility? Or is the presence of a Jewish director or Jewish actor enough to qualify a film as Jewish? What about films that deal with a family or character who seems Jewish without it being explicitly stated? And what about a certain kind of humor that strikes one as inherently Jewish?

It's a vexed subject, to be sure, but it seems to me that the wider one sets the parameters, the betterboth for the form and for the Jews. Surely the entire Marx Brothers oeuvre can be fit under this rubric, for what are they if not a bunch of quintessentially funny Jewish guys? A historical signpost or two might help place things: one might point out that the postwar preoccupation with Jewish themes probably began with Gentlemen's Agreement and that Barbara Streisand paved the way for overtly Jewish characters. …

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