Better Ed Than Dead
I had just got home from watching EDtv when my spiritual adviser, Rabbi Simcha Feffeferman, phoned from Congregation Anshe Tsurres, eager to know whether Andrew Klavan might be my cousin. "He's somebody's cousin," I said, "but not mine. Why?"
"It says here in the newspaper, he wrote this True Crime novel, the one from the Clint Eastwood movie."
"Actually, the movie's from the novel--I mean, based on the novel. I suppose you've called to discuss it?"
"He's very good, this Eastwood. You know, the movie about the innocent man on death row--I remember when D.W. Griffith made it. And do you know where Griffith went, so he should see a real death row? San Quentin! The same as Eastwood."
"Rabbi, are you talking about Intolerance?"
"With Mae Marsh. Wonderful talents she had. But Griffith, the way he hated shvartzers! This I never liked with him. Whereas Eastwood, who acts so tough, he turns out to be the haimish one. Centuries of oppression, of heartache, of endurance in the face of the most relentless----"
"Yes, I understand. True Crime is about a black man on death row--played by Isaiah Washington, who's wonderful. And Eastwood plays the reporter for the Oakland Tribune who guesses, a little more than twelve hours before the execution will take place, that the man is innocent."
"Such a good movie, almost. I like the way you see the two families, the convicted man's and the reporter's, and they're both going kaput. The reporter, he ought to be able to help himself, but he can't. He's too much of a mess already. And the man who's going to die, he's learned to help himself, but how can he do it now? So sad, so true, so human. You could fall right into this movie, until the last fifteen minutes."
"And you say he's not your cousin, this Klavan. These other writers, with their screenplay: Larry Gross, Paul Brickman, Stephen Schiff. You're related, maybe?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Except, of course, they're Jewish."
"That's family in a different sense. Look, why do you keep asking these questions? I have no relation to these people."
"No? I'll give you relation. Fifteen minutes from the end, the reporter suddenly turns into this hero who can drive like crazy. And a woman who used to hate just the look of him, she decides she's his friend. And like D.W. Griffith, at the very last second, guess what? It takes four Jewish writers to decide all this?"
"So, to sum up your critique: True Crime is a thoughtful and affecting drama that sells out to convention at the end."
"This, boychik, would be your critique. I say, True Crime is a shame on the Jews."
Department of self-criticism: Several weeks ago, I praised as fulsomely as I know how the debut feature by Erick Zonca, The Dreamlife of Angels. This was a mistake, on two levels. First, my praise was insufficient. Zonca's story of two young French working-class women, neither of whom works much, is both extraordinarily fine and extraordinarily elusive. Unable to bring its wonders to life on the page, I could merely point in their direction, hoping you would search out the film.
Which brings me to the second mistake: I didn't double-check the release date and so ran the review in advance. For those of you who may have looked about in puzzlement, wondering which theater to call, my apologies. The film isn't that elusive. The Dreamlife of Angels can now be seen in the United States--and should be, as soon as possible.