Friday, August 25, 2017

Menache: Monday, August 21 2017

Menache (2017) is an American drama film set in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations outside of Israel. It uses Yiddish, the language of the Hasidic Jews who are the subject of the film, with sub-titles in the filn. The actors are Hasidic Jews, not professional actors.

Joshua Z. Weinstein is a documentary film maker. This is his first feature film, and his background shows. It feels like a documentary.

Hasidic Judaism originated in the Western Ukraine, as a spiritual revival in the 1700s. It believes in the immanence of G-d throughout the Universe, emphasising spiritual union with G-d as being the most important aspect of religion. All life can be a spiritual act, including the most mundane.

You wouldn't have known that religion was important to any of the Hasidic Jews in this film. It's practice seemed some garbled words, and a few customs left over from the 1700s in the Ukraine, including the separation of the male and female lives. Very few women appear in the film, and those who do seem most unhappy, bowed down with bearing and looking after seven, or even eight, or many children. The men get together to eat, drink, sing and dance together. Male bonding? A drowning of sorrows? Not a happy culture!

The film lacked a strong storyline. The main character was a shemiel (loser) rather than a shlimazel (unlucky person). He really was not competent in any meaning of that word, and in this instance the culture seemed to have it right. It is better for a child to be brought up in a home with two parents, rather than by a single father, especially one such as this. It was difficult to feel any sympathy for him. None of the other characters seemed attractive in any way either. The thesis of Menache seemed so promising: insight into a secretive, strange culture, interesting story. It didn't live up to the promise. The ending left us wondering what it had all been about. There was a final shot of a young Hasidic man, dressed in their costume with the ringlets, talking into an iPhone. My friends, who were looking for some resolution of the story, liked to think that was the son of the chief character, grown up successfully, into a reasonably happy man.

Not a film any of us would recommend!

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