Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tickling Leo

When I received an email asking me to review a new film, Tickling Leo, I had reservations, but took a look at the promised content and thought, "Hey, it's like Ushpizin without Adi Ran!" The keywords that jumped out at me were Yom Kippur, Holocaust, and three generations of a Jewish family. I agreed to review it, and days later a Fed Ex envelope showed up at my door. After spending ten minutes trying to figure out how to get the stupid thing open I finally succeeded, and popped it into my computer and started to watch.

The first thing I felt was overwhelming guilt. How could I, someone who calls himself TRS, tell other people to watch a film? That's ridiculous! At the same time, I would feel just as guilty if I didn't review the film, seeing as so much effort went into getting it to me, so I suppose I'll just have to deal with it. Besides, it's "Jewish," right? And anyway, what could be more fun than picking apart the film and showing what it got wrong? Is there any greater possible pleasure? I thought not. Besides, I got to watch a movie before it was released here-how cool is that?

In short, the movie is all about the character we don't see until the very end, Emil Pikler, played by Eli Wallach. Of course what I've said is not true-it's really a movie about a guy growing up, trying to figure out what's going on and in the end realizing that he will end up nuts, just like his father and grandfather. And oh right, it's a movie about the holocaust.

Back in 1944 there was a lot of shtuff going on in Hungary to save the Jews who were trapped there, including the offer by Adolf Eichmann to save one million of 'em. In the end just 1,680 Jews were allowed to escape, while between 500,000/700,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered, primarily at Auschwitz. Those 1,680 were due to the efforts of one Rudolph Kasztner, who selected them based on several criteria:

1) Deserving figures in Jewish Public life

2) People who had served the Jewish community in general or made sacrifices for Jewish social causes

3) widows and orphans of slave laborers

Did I mention that 388 people on the train were from Kasztner's hometown of Cluj? Pretty good, eh? Unfortunately for Kasztner, some people didn't approve of this behavior, and he was gunned down in Tel Aviv in 1957. These things happen.
--
Tickling Leo starts off with a guy named Zak (Daniel Sauli), with a girlfriend, Delphina Adams (Annie Parisse) who go off to visit Zak's dad, Warren Pikler, (Lawrence Pressman) for Yom Kippur. Zak is not interested in visiting his dad, for a couple reasons, both of which we find out pretty quickly. For one, Zak's mom died a year ago, and Warren didn't show up to the funeral. For another, Warren has a propensity to walk around the great outdoors in his birthday suit. As a faithful mikveh-goer for many years this was not shocking, but for anyone who does not normally see aged men wearing nothing, it will come as quite a shock. Which is probably what the director, Jeremy Davidson, wanted.

Turns out that Warren, never the most stable person in the world (he is a poet after all) is very quickly losing his mental capacities, becoming something of an idiot savant in his non-lucid states. He figures out rather quickly that Delphina is pregnant ("She glows" {I think that was the line}), even though Zak isn't interested in anyone knowing this. At the same time, he also goes to the bathroom in his pants, and his son has to clean him up.

Warren and Zak never had a great relationship, but Delphina seems to hit it off fine with him, so much so that when Yom Kippur rolls around she decides to try and fit in and fast. Not a good idea, of course, because she's pregnant, and Warren tells her into uncertain terms to go and eat. After she gets into a hissy-fit with Zak she hightails out of dodge to a local restaurant and has a hamburger. Yum, eh? No worries, of course, because she's not Jewish. Neither is Zak, for that matter-Warren married a non-Jewish woman.

After some more touchy-feely shtuff we find out that-but wait! Why should I reveal the whole movie to you? You should go watch it. Oh, no you shouldn't. Whatever. Don't blame me. Point is, there are some big surprises at the end (aren't there always?). They make the movie, which seems to drag a lot in the beginning, into something worth watching. It's a powerful movie when you get down to it-people grappling with their origins, living with hypocrisies, and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

And yeah, those inaccurate Jewish things? Like, if you're going to make havdala after yom kippur is over, do the whole thing. And contrary to what Delphina thinks, her child will not be Jewish. Sorry kiddo. And something tells me that most people don't play pool on Yom Kippur, even if they are fasting. But hey, I once spent six hours playing ping-pong on Tisha B'Av, so who am I to talk?

In short, it's a good movie, if only for the end, where you get to see Grandpa Pikler expound on his own greatness and show why he truly is his son's father. And I have every expectation that Zak will age into a nut as well, though perhaps because he's not Jewish he'll turn out normal. Or maybe not. These things happen.

30 comments:

sarabonne said...

Oh gosh, it IS a real movie...I don't know what to think. I'm in a state of shock. How am I to tell if you're lying when it's a real movie?

Well that's cool.

TheCoolJew said...

The Asked me to review it as well...After watching it with a few other frum ppl we decided it has no place in the frum wolrd!

Mottel said...

You gotta love how blogging gets you all kinds of free stuff!

Big N8t said...

Personally i think we should stick to the good stuff :-) there is no reason that we watch this garbage just so we can make ourselves feel better about watching movies.
Oh and thank you for being the fence around the fence for us guys: checking to see if its fit for the rest of the frum world :-)

The Real Shliach said...

Sara: Good to hear the level of trust I've built up is...

The Cool Jew: Maskim.

Mottel: You betcha!

Big N8t: What, pray tell, is the good shtuff?

Anonymous said...

The good stuff nowadays is Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

That is Bastards. And Nate is right.

Anonymous said...

Modeh: Usually you would be right, but not this time. In the movie title it's spelled Basterds with an "e". And it's spelled Inglourious with an extra "u" as well.

Mottel said...

Modeh: Yup, anon is right.

Altie said...

you got 4 more votes. Hows that even possible if the polls are already closed?

Anonymous said...

I know it's a bit off-topic, but I'm sure (at least!) TRS will appreciate this timely, n ot well-known, piece:

In the original, followed by loose translation:

ב'יחידות' של אחד מחשובי המשפיעים אמר הרבי ('מקדש מלך' כרך ד' עמ' שצג):

"..כשנהיה אלול בעולם ("אַז ס'קומט אַ אלול אין וועלט") ולומדים את עניני חודש אלול כפי שנתבארו בחסידות, הרי זהו אלול אחר לגמרי!"


In a "Yechidus" of a distinguished Mashpia, the Rebbe said ("Mikdash Melech", v.4, p.393):

"When Elul "enters" the world, and one learns the concepts of the month as they are elucidated in Chassidus – it's an entirely different Chodesh Elul!.."

(A unique, rare expression from the Rebbe, as are many others in that set – culled from personal letters and diaries of chassidim, many of them first-hand).

Anonymous said...

(Yes, it's me from 6:02).

Here's another vort I heard recently, actually quite "chassidishe" notwithstanding..

Someone once came to RSZ Auerbach zt"l with a calendar for the upcoming year, to approve and/or edit Halachic issues etc. RSZ perused every page, and didn't comment till the last month Elul. There, was in large letters, a famous "slogan" or "catch-phrase":
תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה

RSZ asked, "Nu, du vintshs di klalos shoin fun heint..?!"

(Meaning, It's definitely a true line, but at it's time; don't schedule your problems in advance..)

ChayAiz said...

i think your i nyour element reviewing content

but

the movie is a movie

and how is ur review specifically beneficial?

e said...

wow! So now you're a real blogger, whose public the movie people deem worthy of marketing to.

Altie said...

Mottel- not all bloggers get free stuff. Enjoy your position now.

e said...

bloggers with big readership do...

Altie said...

I have more followers than you...

no. it has to do with popularity and name.

Mottel said...

-Altie: It's all about SEO!

Altie said...

whats that?

Mottel said...

Search Engine Optimization

Altie said...

how does it work?

Mottel said...

Write alot, use key words, link to others, have others link to you, keep your blog going . . .

Altie said...

my blog is going. evidently you dont read it.

thanks.

Dovid said...

Movies? This is the most un-TRSlike thing since secret scanta

The Real Shliach said...

Altie: I guess people *really* love me.

Anon: Yasher Koach for both of those! In fact, I like them so much...

ChayAiz: Really? Can you tell that to people so that I get more free shtuff? :)

e: You better believe it!

Mottel: I've done all those but use keywords...

Dovid: Hey, welcome back. And correct you are. I hang my head in shame.

Altie said...

keep dreaming.

sarabonne said...

Re; trust-it's jsut that you write a lot of fiction.

The Real Shliach said...

Maybe I should make a true or false symbol at the top of the page... On the other hand, ambiguity only adds to the fun.

Cheerio said...

but who's leo, and why did he get tickled?

Feivel ben Mishael said...

Rudolph Kaztner was a Nazi callaborator.