Menashe Screen 71 of 7 reviews

Menashe

2017

Menashe Poster
  • It's full of lovely grace notes in which nothing much happens, but which deepen our understanding of this self-segregated corner of the world. A documentary filmmaker, Weinstein brings to his first narrative fiction an anthropologist's eagle eye for the layered complexities of set-apart subcultures. He honors the cadences and rhythms of this community, its joy in ritual and ecstatic singing.

  • Weinstein’s juxtapositions are as clever a means of skewering religious hypocrisy as his deadpan sense of humor (Menashe’s rabbi, encouraging him to get married: “The Talmud says three things bring a man peace: a nice wife, a nice house, and nice dishes”). But he manages to dole out empathy to everyone, including Menashe’s rabbi, his brother-in-law, and the other strict and frum Haredim.

  • The director Joshua Z Weinstein, a cinematographer and documentarian making a seamless transition to fiction, shot “Menashe” entirely in Yiddish in Borough Park, Brooklyn. He has an eye for the fine-grained textures of everyday life that draw you into this cloistered world and close to Menashe, a character partly inspired by Mr. Lustig’s own life.

  • Credited as co-director of photography on the film alongside Yoni Brook, Weinstein consistently conveys a feeling of dropping in on an unfamiliar environment and observing people's behavior with a preponderance of handheld camerawork and fly-on-the-wall stationary shots. But Menashe's screenplay, which Weinstein co-wrote with Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed, also adds to this naturalistic flavor by taking a subculture rarely seen on screen almost completely at face value.

  • I can attest that it is the most authentic look at Brooklyn Hasidim which American independent cinema has yet produced (no disrespect to A Price Above Rubies and Holy Rollers, but competition is hard to find)... In the annals of Brooklyn grocery clerk movies, See You Next Tuesday still stands above, but Weinstein’s accomplishment is no small one here; he isn’t ultra-Orthodox and yet Menashe feels like a credible insider’s point of view on a community the American movies rarely glimpse.

  • Debut director Joshua Z. Weinstein offers much access to and respect for an under-depicted community, but turns out what amounts to, measure for measure, an indie drama outfitted in kippah and tallit.

  • It frustrating because it takes hard-earned access, retains documentary virtues, and then dilutes it all via a screenplay that hits every beat exactly where you’d expect. (If a character who’s seemingly about to redeem himself and has had things going well for like eight minutes places some kugel in the oven and then leaves the house while forgetting about it, what exactly do you think is going to happen next?)

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