Filmed in1966 and ’67, but kept from release for twenty years, The Commissar is unquestionably one of the most important and compelling films of the Soviet era. Based on a short story by Vasily Grossman, it tells of a female Red Army commissar who is forced to stay with a Jewish family near the frontlines of the battle between the Red and White Armies as she waits to give birth. The film drew the ire of censors for its frank portrayal of the violence faced by Russian Jews in the wake of the revolution.
This book is the first companion to the film in any language. It recounts the film’s plot and turbulent production history, and it also offers a close analysis of the artistic vision of its director, Aleksandr Askoldov, and the ways that viewers can trace in the film not only his complex aesthetics, but also the personal crises he endured in the years leading up to the film. The result is an indispensable companion to an unforgettable film.
An original investigation into the reading strategies and uses of books by Jews in the Soviet era.
In The Soviet Jewish Bookshelf, Marat Grinberg argues that in an environment where Judaism had been all but destroyed, and a public Jewish presence routinely delegitimized, reading uniquely provided many Soviet Jews with an entry to communal memory and identity. The bookshelf was both a depository of selective Jewish knowledge and often the only conspicuously Jewish presence in their homes. The typical Soviet Jewish bookshelf consisted of a few translated works from Hebrew and numerous translations from Yiddish and German as well as Russian books with both noticeable and subterranean Jewish content. Such volumes, officially published, and not intended solely for a Jewish audience, afforded an opportunity for Soviet Jews to indulge insubordinate feelings in a largely safe manner. Grinberg is interested in pinpointing and decoding the complex reading strategies and the specifically Jewish uses to which the books on the Soviet Jewish bookshelf were put. He reveals that not only Jews read them, but Jews read them in a specific way.
Although Woody Allen’s films have received extensive attention from scholars and critics, no book has focused exclusively on Jewishness in his work, particularly that of the late 1990s and beyond. In this anthology, a distinguished group of contributors—whose work is richly contextualized in the fields of literature, philosophy, film, theater, and comedy—examine the schlemiel, Allen and women, the Jewish take on the “morality of murder,” Allen’s take on Hebrew scripture and Greek tragedy, his stage work, his cinematic treatment of food and dining, and what happens to “Jew York” when Woody takes his films out of New York City. Considered together, these essays delineate the intellectual, artistic, and moral development of one of cinema’s most durable and controversial directors.