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Sunday, March 1, 2015

LE MÉTIS DE DIEU / THE JEWISH CARDINAL (2013)

It sounds interesting: a fact-inspired film from Ilan Duran Cohen’s about Jean-Marie (Aron) Lustiger, a Jewish boy who converted during the Nazi occupation and rose to become Archbishop of Paris, all while firmly maintaining his identity as a Jew. Like Jesus, non? But it feels rushed, with too many bumps edited out of the story. Once he’s risen, the story sorts itself down to two lines of action: the Cardinal’s tense relation with his disapproving father; and the Cardinal’s tense relation with his largely approving boss, Pope John Paul II. The situations come to a head during his father’s burial (should a Cardinal say Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead?); and when a stubborn (make that tone-deaf) set of Carmelite nuns open a convent in Auschwitz, right where the Cardinal’s mother died during the war. It provides for a fine double climax with a chance to see the two most important men in the Cardinal’s life from new perspectives. But the dramatic possibilities feel glossed over and don't quite register. Perhaps the film misses too much of the backstory and of what one suspects must have been a difficult adolescence. It could have provided the film’s missing intellect & heart.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The basic situation could have prompted Yogi Berra to repeat what he said upon learning that the Mayor of Dublin was Jewish. ‘Only in America!’ (BTW: a closer translation of the French title might be GOD’S MONGREL or GOD’S HALF-BREED.)

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