AJFF What to Watch: Films Featuring Hollywood Stars Part 2


Familiar Hollywood faces populate this mix of dramas and classics. And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

Death in Love
The devastating legacy of a liaison between a concentration camp inmate and monstrous Nazi doctor is the subject of this uncompromising film that pierces the senses. Saved by her duplicitous affair during the war, Jacqueline Bisset's character marries and moves to New York, where she raises two emotionally stunted sons. The elder (Josh Lucas) is a sadomasochist who operates a scam modeling agency. The neurotic younger son (Lukas Haas) is locked in a compulsive relationship with his mother. Punctuated by graphic imagery, the film reveals a tortured family existence as the brothers struggle with the choices made from one generation of Holocaust survivors to the next. Provocative and at times difficult to watch, the drama is the highly personal vision of writer-director Boaz Yakin.

The 2008 film, starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell, is based on the true story of a group of Jews in Belarus who successfully defied the Nazis by hiding in the forest and by creating a self-contained society while losing only about 50 of their some 1,200 members. The film is based on Nechama Tec's 1993 book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans.

Receiving favorable reviews, this drama, based on the novel of the same name, stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Weisz portrays a photographer who returns to the community that shunned her decades earlier only to reignite a relationship with the woman she left behind (McAdams).

The birth of modern Israel gets the big-budget, Hollywood treatment in this exhilarating epic featuring an all-star ensemble. Paul Newman portrays Israeli resistance leader Ari Ben Canaan, who defies a British blockade to smuggle Jewish refugees to Palestine. Once ashore, he falls in love with an American nurse, Kitty (Eva Marie Saint), as together they risk their lives for the Zionist cause. Otto Preminger’s lavish production was not immune to controversy, as the ironfisted director replaced the novel’s author Leon Uris with blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, clashed with cast members, and was at odds with Israeli officials about shooting locations. Standouts include supporting performances from Lee J. Cobb and Sal Mineo, as well as Ernest Gold’s Academy Award-winning score. Featured as a classic for its 40th Anniversary at the 2020 AJFF.

Gentleman's Agreement
This 1947 drama film is about a journalist, played by Gregory Peck, who poses as a Jew to research an exposé on antisemitism in New York City and the affluent community of Darien, Connecticut. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it wound up winning three for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm and Best Director for Elia Kazan. 

Starring Jesse Eisenberg and based on the true story of legendary mime Marcel Marceau, who led an effort to save Holocaust orphans with the help of the French Resistance. Marceau never saw himself as a hero as noted by the film's the director and screenwriter Jonathan Jakubowicz.