Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Year in Hate: Cinema Selection #2

A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers

Set a month before the Six Day War (a calendar reading May 1967 is visible in the scene with the First Rabbi), the Coen Brothers' very personal film about the Jewish suburbs of the Midwest America is astounding. Words fail where hate prevails.

The film is frequently hailed (or decried) as misanthropic. However, in order to make any universal statement one must make it by way of the particular, and critics have been dancing around an ugly truth about the film and the way it makes it’s case against humanity, namely, by way of a deep, profound, authentic, sincere, and—most frightening of all—justified anti-Semitism, an anti-Semitism made all the more sincere by its personal nature. This is not the vulgar, racial anti-Semitism of bygone years (embodied by the protagonist's anti-Semitic neighbor), but a vicious, rational renunciation of Judaism both as a theological-moral philosophy and as a secular culture, the latter denunciation much more significant given the secularism of the modern Jewish and specifically American Jewish Diaspora. The fact that the Coen Brothers are Jewish makes the film no less dangerous in the wrong hands, as anti-Semitism has always been accompanied by a certain intellectual pretentiousness absent in more vulgar forms of racism. But, in the right hands, this film offers a generous anti-Semitism, like that of Nietzsche's: an anti-Semitism which loses its particular character of singling out Jews because it is infact just one ray of a veritable rainbow of hatred, one aspect of a universal anti-humanism. As a friend put it, it’s a film that invites everyone to be Jewish for an hour and a half, and makes them hate being Jewish. A Serious Man does for anti-Semitism what The Girlfriend Experience does for misogyny: reclaims it as a legitimate means to allegorize the rottenness of our society.
Israel is the tornado.

1 comment:

  1. Wait, so we're all anti-semites? Is this cross posted from Jews for Jesus?