Monday, April 28, 2014

A Living Provocation

The Jewish Cardinal
Capsule Review (rough draft) by John Demetry

"I am a living provocation to reflect on Christ and the Gospel!" declares Jean-Marie Lustiger (Laurent Lucas) in The Jewish Cardinal. He radically explicates his identity after the Catholic press mischaracterizes him as a "convert" from Judaism in the announcements of his appointment as Bishop of Orleans by John Paul II. Rising to the ranks of Cardinal and trusted adviser of the Pope, Lustiger becomes embroiled in the torrent of identity politics--the fall of Communism and the rise of Holocaust denial--even as he embodies the wounded hope of Christian faith (which he encountered in the King of Love as a 14-year-old persecuted Polish Jew during WWII). Directed by Ilan Duran Cohen with French fluidity, fleetness and complexity, The Jewish Cardinal explores the meaning of Lustiger's identity "provocation" by evoking both Catholic compassion and Jewish ecumenicism in characterizations by, respectively, Pascal Greggory and Bruno Todeschini--icons together again after the epochal Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1999). Finally, Aurelien Recoing's charismatic and savvy Pope John Paul II ends his screen time with a gesture--containing the entire mystery and burden of human history in a teardrop--that can only be called: saintly. Don't miss its limited run at Cinema Village.


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