Long story, short
Quick takes on S.F. Jewish Film Festival movies

The Burial Society (Nicholas Racz, Canada, 2002) In this neo-noir caper, loan manager Darrell Zimmer (Rob LaBelle) is on the run from the Jewish gangsters from whom he has stolen two million dollars in a wild attempt to rewire his mundane life. The film is funny already, but the humor is heightened by Darrell's attempt to join the Chevrah Kadisha, or Burial Society, of the small Canadian town he has fled to at the film's opening. The elderly undertakers first refuse his request, until he piques their interest with the tale of the missing two million dollars – lying to make himself appear the victim in an expensive mob mix-up, though the quick-witted morticians aren't quite the harmless old men they first appear to be ... The Burial Society is an exciting jaunt through the not so mainstream madness of an unlikely hero. Sat/19, 7:15 p.m., Castro; July 27, 8:45 p.m., Wheeler; July 31, 6 p.m., CineArts; Aug. 4, 8:45 p.m., Rafael.

Monsieur Batignole (Gerard Jugnot, France, 2002) A fictional French baker-Nazi collaborator, Edmond Batignole, played by writer-director Gerard Jugnot, finds himself helping the young son of his detained Jewish neighbors whom he helped imprison. After Batignole's soon-to-be-son-in-law Pierre-Jean (Jean-Paul Rouve), an unstable and talentless playwright, secures the Jewish neighbors' apartment for the Batignole clan with the help of the local Nazi Party leader, the baker begins to suffer minor residual guilt – as selling out one's neighbors and stealing their home can create. Unfortunately this guilt doesn't stop Batignole from catering Nazi parties or accepting a Jewish delivery truck confiscated by the Third Reich. But as Batignole pours champagne for Nazis at his housewarming party, he hears a knock at the back door from the youngest son of the family who used to live there and begins a series of actions that make him an accidental hero. Mon/21, 8:45 p.m., Castro; July 29, 8:45 p.m., Castro; July 31, 6 p.m., Wheeler; Aug. 4, 6:30 p.m., Rafael.

Samy y Yo (Eduardo Milewicz, Argentina, 2002) In this year's closing-night film, Samuel Goldstein (Ricardo Darín), the scriptwriter for a flopping Argentine daytime stand-up comedy program, is faced with your run-of-the-mill midlife crisis (or is it?), which the young stiletto-clad Mary (Angie Cepeda) schemes to release him from (or does she?) – forcing Samy out from under his writer's block and into the limelight of television to host an instantly popular one-man show. However, the energetic Mary is not all that she seems, and despite her sexual and professional encouragement, Samy remains divided. Writer-director Eduardo Milewicz, who fills the film with many a culturally endearing moment, might be the illegitimate son of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. July 24, 8:15 p.m., Castro; July 31, 8:30 p.m., CineArts.

Adele Pham

July 16, 2003