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A Yiddish-Speaker Sees "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish."

by Eric Kohn
July 13, 2011 9:15 AM
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You don't have to find the Yiddish language inherently amusing to get something out of "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish" -- which is currently playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center -- but it helps. A linguistic oddity with oodles of charm, it cleverly satirizes the paradoxical sense of pride and self-loathing that has come to define the modern America Jew. Eve Annenberg's scrappy feature has plenty of appeal if you're willing to go with it.

The story follows a middle-aged graduate student attempting to produce the ludicrously high concept production of the title. She hires a couple of rejects from Brooklyn's Hasidic community in Williamsburg to play the parts, and the plot oscillates from their discussions about the adaptations to its uneasy realization. Some may find that Annenberg's occasionally sloppy execution ruins the experience, but her fly-on-the-wall approach to observing her young would-be actors evaluate their newfound freedoms gives the project a documentary value unseen since "Trembling Before G-d" (and a lot more entertaining). As someone who lives a few blocks from the Yiddish-dominated setting, I found myself right at home--or at least close by. Audiences who live in the thick of it might find themselves even closer. After attending a screening in Lincoln Center last Saturday, I noticed a few native Yiddish speakers talking amongst themselves in the lobby. "It was c-yoot," said one. Nu? Mission accomplished.

Here's the trailer:

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