What Makes Duddy Itch

Ted Kotcheff, NYC, 10/3/12

Ted Kotcheff, NYC, 10/3/12

A young man in a hurry in 50s Montreal, the eponymous (anti-ish) hero of Ted Kotcheff’s 1974 “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” is a blue-eyed bundle of anxiety and manic energy, speed-talking, in constant motion, constantly putting his hand down his shirt to scratch himself.

Ducking out, midway through a performance with his high school marching band of an untuneful “When the Saints Come Marching In,” Duddy (Richard Dreyfuss) finds his father, taxi driver Max (Jack Warden–the familial resemblance  between the two actors is remarkable), at his usual coffee shop hangout.   And, determined to become a “somebody,” Duddy sucks up inspiration from the (likely partially apocryphal) oft-told story of Max’s old pal, who made it big (and is a Québécois version of a made man), The Boy Wonder.

After graduation a summer job takes Duddy to the Canadian borscht belt to work as a waiter at a resort frequented by upper-class Jewish families.  On a day off, his new French-Canadain shiksa girlfriend, Yvette (Micheline Lanctôt), a maid at the hotel, leads him to a pristine lake and Duddy has found his calling–he’ll buy up lots of land encircling the water, build his own resort, and give his loving, supportive grandfather (“land makes a man a somebody”) a farm.

While working endless schemes, legal and less so, moral and not, to fund piecing together his paradise–the bountiful acres belonging to retiring famers who will sell to his frontwoman, Yvette, but often anti-semitic, not to him–Duddy spares no one.  And with the last deed in hand, dream accomplished, he’s alone, abandoned by family and Yvette, disgusted or damaged by his methods.  But the charming monster, confused and totally unself-aware as he says, “I did it for all of us,” retains the empathy of the audience.

“The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” in a new restoration, will open at Film Forum on Friday, May 31 for a one-week run.  Director Ted Kotcheff will introduce the 7:00 pm show on opening night with a Q&A to follow the screening.

See Hannah Think

The work of a philosopher is not a natural subject for a visual medium.  But director Margarethe von Trotta’s “Hannah Arendt,” working with frequent creative partner, Barbara Sukowa, playing the title role, makes the New York transplant, German-Jewish thinker/historian/writer’s ideas, her (flashback) experiences in Germany before World War II and in occupied France, and her controversial coverage of the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Israel compelling moviegoing.

“Hannah Arendt” opens today at Film Forum on two screens.  Director Margarethe von Trotta, star Barbara Sukowa and screenwriter Pamela Katz will attend tonight and Friday’s 6:30 and 7:45 pm shows, with co-star Janet McTeer at tonight’s 7:45 show.  The filmmaker will also be present on Saturday, June 1 at 7:45 pm.

Margarethe von Trotta, NYC, 10/12/10

Margarethe von Trotta, NYC, 10/12/10

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