On April 5, the
fifth annual Brooklyn Jewish Film Festival kicks off with the
New York premiere of the French film "The Grand Role,"
directed by Steve Suissa. Although this edition of the festival
is titled "Stand Up and Laugh," there isn’t much to
laugh about in this movie about a Jewish actor, Maurice (Stephane
Freiss), who auditions for the role of Shylock in a famous American
director’s Yiddish screen version of "The Merchant of Venice,"
but doesn’t get to keep the part.
When the director (Peter Coyote) replaces him, Maurice doesn’t
have the heart to tell his ailing wife, Perla (Berenice Bejo,
pictured), so he takes on the greatest role of his life, acting
as though he is going to the set each day - in order to bring
joy to his beloved wife. Despite the dark cloud (the lovely wife
slipping away) that hangs over the action, the film still manages
to be fairly fast-paced (especially for a French film!), and
even turns into a buddy movie as Maurice’s pals aid him in his
subterfuge, doubling as his chauffeurs, journalists and costume
What pulls the film back from the edge of being easily dismissed
silliness is the truly heartbreaking, memorable performances
of Freiss and Bejo whose love endures the plot’s twists and turns.
Also showing on April 5 is the short film "Advice and Dissent,"
featuring Eli Wallach as a rabbi. Wallach is expected to attend
the screening and the opening night reception that follows. The
festival, which continues through April 10, takes place at BAMcinematek
(30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene). Tickets
are $10. For more information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit the
Web site at www.bam.org.
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010