Film Notes: Jewish Film Series Resumes in Hanover

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/5/2018 12:05:09 AM
Modified: 1/5/2018 12:05:17 AM

Every winter, my wife and I swear that we’re going to brave the elements and the darkness more often during the work week to see at least a few of the eclectic mix of movies in the admission-free Upper Valley Jewish Community-Hillel Film Series at Dartmouth College.

This fifth winter of the series, the temptations abound, starting with this coming Wednesday’s screening of Above and Beyond, the 2015 documentary about a group of Jewish-American pilots who smuggled planes out of the United States, trained with them in Czechoslovakia and flew for Israel during the war for independence in the late 1940s.

Some of the films we’ve already seen, but would welcome revisiting. These include the 2001 romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein on Feb. 21; Hester Street, starring an anything-but-ditsy young Carol Kane as a Jewish immigrant to early 20th-century New York, on Jan. 24; French director Louis Malle’s autobiographical Au Revoir Les Enfants on Jan. 31; and Gentleman’s Agreement, the 1947 thriller in which Gregory Peck plays a journalist investigating anti-Semitism after World War II, on Feb. 7.

“The first year we did it, we showed mostly comedies out of my collection of DVDs,” Norwich resident Rusty Sachs, the retired lawyer and Marine veteran who curates the series, said this week. “As it’s gone along, we’ve mixed in movies of all kinds, as long as they have a Jewish theme, or sometimes just a Jewish writer or a Jewish star.

“The turnout varies from week to week, but now there are some people who have come to make this a part of their winter activity. Something to get them out of the igloo once a week.”

In addition to films from his own collection, Sachs has been acquiring films suggested by regulars and friends. The series also revisits particular favorites every other year or so, such as Joan Micklin Silver’s 1988 adaptation of playwright Susan Sandler’s Crossing Delancey and the 2006 comedy Keeping Up with the Steins.

For a variety of reasons, Sachs couldn’t resist bringing back Kissing Jessica Stein, in which the title character struggles with her attraction to another woman.

“Aside from the story, which is very intriguing, what I find charming about it was that it was a couple of college roommates (Jennifer Westfelt and Heather Juergensen) who wrote it, performed it as a play, and then worked for 10 years to bring it to the screen,” Sachs said. “They wanted full control over the production, and it was worth the wait.”

While the current plan is to wrap the series on Feb. 28 with a screening of The Other Son, a 2011 Israeli feature in which a young man about to join the army learns that he was inadvertently switched at birth with the son of a Palestinian from the West Bank. Sachs said that if the series is able to rent the room on March 14, the UVJC and Hillel will show Wonder Woman, the box-office-busting action-hero flick starring former Israeli Defense Force member and Miss Israel Gal Gadot.

The Upper Valley Jewish Community-Hillel Film Series continues on Wednesday night at 7, with a screening of Above and Beyond, in room 13 of Dartmouth College’s Carpenter Hall in Hanover. Admission is free. For the schedule of subsequent screenings, visit

Must Sees

There are movies that are greater than the sum of their already-considerable parts, and then there’s Guillermo del Toro’s new masterpiece, The Shape of Water. If you missed its two screenings during the Telluride at Dartmouth film festival in September, make your way through the cold and the snow to Hanover’s Nugget Theaters as soon as possible; it opens with three showings today, starting with a 3:50 matinee.

My co-favorite (with Dunkirk) among the 2017 movies I’ve seen that are receiving Oscar buzz, The Shape of Water almost defies description, but here goes:

The divine Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito, a mute single woman in early 1960s Baltimore who meets an unlikely suitor during her work as a clean-up worker at a super-secret government facility. In addition to that brother from another species, played by del Toro regular Doug Jones, the supporting cast includes Michael Shannon as an all-too-convincingly sado-masochistic Cold Warrior; Octavia Spencer as one of Elisa’s co-workers; and, in the role I hope finally earns him an Academy Award, Richard Jenkins as Elisa’s sensitive, closeted neighbor in a rickety apartment building.

On the House

The Bethel Revitalization Initiative kicks off its series of free family movies tonight at 6:30 at Town Hall. The nonprofit notes on its website ( and on its Facebook page that it can’t reveal the title of the movie, but the clue it offers makes it pretty clear that it’s the animated blockbuster The Incredibles.

Pentangle Arts has begun its Thank You Thursday series of free classic movies at Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre. Next up are the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona on Feb. 1, the Fred Astaire romp Top Hat on March 1, the Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack version of Ocean’s 11 on April 5, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on May 3 and Peter Sellers’ Oscar-winning turn in Being There on June 7. All the films start at 7:30 p.m.

Between the fictional features, Pentangle also will be showing a wide variety of documentaries, starting Jan. 18 with the refugee story 8 Borders, 8 Days.

While admission to all films is free, donations are welcome.

Coming Attractions

Why does the Dartmouth Film Society keep doing this? On this opening weekend of its winter series, it’s hitting cinephiles with two quandaries:

Tonight at 7, Battle of the Sexes, the docu-dramatization of the 1973 tennis showdown between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), shows at Spaulding Auditorium.

At the same hour, at Loew Auditorium, they’re showing The Square, a satire of the art world starring Elisabeth Moss of Handmaid’s Tale renown.

Saturday night brings more decisions, decisions: Loving Vincent, the pioneering film in which artists from around the world animated 94 Vincent van Gogh paintings to depict his final days, starts at 7 at Spaulding.

And at the same time in Loew, the movie is The Florida Project, the slice-of-hard-life feature that looks like Willem Dafoe’s best shot at an Academy Award since Platoon.

At least on Sunday afternoon, the only Hopkins Center movie, at 4, is a revisiting of John Huston’s noir classic The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as the iconic, flawed detective Sam Spade.

Admission toLoving Vincentcosts $10; tickets to all other movies over the weekend are $5 to $8. To reserve seats and learn more, visit or call 603-727-3304.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304. Film- and television-related news and announcements also can be sent to

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