Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|A Stranger Among Us|
Actors: Melanie Griffith, John Pankow, Tracy Pollan, Lee Richardson, Mia Sara
Director: Sidney Lumet
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Academy Award(R)-nominated star Melanie Griffith (Best Actress nominee -- WORKING GIRL, 1988) turns in a winning performance as detective Emily Eden, a tough New York City cop forced to go undercover to solve a puzzling mu... more »
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The real value is in the multi-cultural dialogues
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | Minnesota, USA | 10/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK, so it's not the best film in terms of police procedurals -- if you are looking for a hard-core crime drama, this isn't it. This movie was a spin-off from "Witness," which took place in the Amish community, and, like "Witness," the real value of "Stranger" is in the multi-cultural details and dialogue. The murder mystery is just a formula plot for presenting an introduction to Hasidic culture. Viewed as such, the film can be a useful teaching tool, and that's why I've been recommending it on my website's Hasidism FAQ. I myself use it in social studies classes here in rural Minnesota, where most of the students have never met any Jews at all, let alone Hasidim. Now granted, there are some things in the film that are pure Hollywood, such as the little book referred to as "The Kabbalah" that reads like a sex manual. In real life, "kabbalah" is a collective term referring to Jewish mysticism. There is no one book called "The Kabbalah" any more than there is any one book called "The Zen." Although some kabbalstic texts do contain certain sexual imagery, the stuff that Ariel reads to Emily in the film is more like erotic love poetry. This serves a purpose in the story, but it's not Jewishly accurate, and for that, I'm docking it a star. On the other hand, the film does address some of the negative stereotypes about Hasidim, such as that ridiculous urban legend about the hole in the sheet. (NOT!) The real "kabbalah" of the film is in the message about finding one's soulmate. In the beginning of the film, Ariel reads a line from his kabbalah book: "God counts the tears of women." He has no idea what this means, it's just words. Later, at the end of the movie, Ariel's Hasidic bride-to-be quotes this same line back to him. She explains what it means, then says: "It's in the kabbalah." From this, we know that they are true soulmates, even though this is the first time they have met face-to-face. Emily (the detective) has also decided to wait for her true soulmate, which is what she tells Levine, who has been making passes at her throughout the film. But Emily has now grown in her understanding of relationships, and knows that fooling around with the Levines of the world is not love. There are some fine Hasidic scenes in the film, such as the Sabbath celebration, which shows both men's and a women's dance circles. Especially nice is the inclusion of a black couple at the Rebbe's table, presumably representing the Ethiopian Jews. The wedding scene is also well done. (Trivia: the music used for the wedding march is a Bobover Hasidic tune for "Lecha Dodi," the song which welcomes the Sabbath Bride of Friday night.) It is for these scenes that I find the film most useful in mlti-cultural education."
The film that changed my life
B. C. Diez | Asturias, Spain | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some years ago I watched this film during a brus trip from Oviedo to Barcelona and it changed my life in a radical and most wonderful way. It discovered me the _bashert_ (= destiny, our other half) reality and Jewish life. It helped me to understand that meaning and warm are still available in the world. It introduce me the reality I have always dreamed to discover. So I have no words to express what this superb film did for me. If you want to discover something incredible about life, you should not miss it."
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | 06/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend. I really enjoyed it. I thought the presentation of the Hasidic community was well done and respectful...and added to the story. Even though the critics panned it, I thought Melanie was fine. A good Friday night stay-at-home-with-a-tub-of-buttered-popcorn movie."
Casting boo boo by the name of Melanie Griffith
JustMe | Berkeley, CA | 07/23/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting film, especially for a cop flick, because it is more character-based than stereotypical Hollywood (car chases, gratuitous violence and shooting, big muscles, etc). And the role of Emily is a perfect multidimensional character-centered role. Not something you saw a lot of in mainstream Hollywood flicks prior to about the mid-1990's. However, Melanie Griffith is not appropriate for such a role. A fluffy comedic actor like Griffith only makes such a role appear melodramatic and overbearing. It's like using a meat cleaver to perform intricate brain surgery. This is not to say that Griffith is a bad actor (at least not for fluffy comedy), or that she couldn't master the subtlies of this type of acting some day; after all, look what Sylvester Stallone did in Cop Land (and if he can do it, anyone can do it). But she obviously failed in her role in this film.
The rest of the characters are also compellingly multidimensional, except, oddly enough, for who turns out to be the murderer.
I liked the film's positive multicultural flavor; what I also liked about the film was that it was made around the time that Hollywood started tayloring film's endings based on preferences of test audiences (around 1992), but this film's ending was obviously spared such a fate. The ending is cool, because it is realistic and shows Ariel's integrity--which I think was a graceful way to end things."