19 October 2009

Film: Wild Jewish roots

Be careful when you pinch the cheeks of young relatives! You might be the inspiration for characters in books and films created in the future by one of those cuties.

Causing a rumpus in the box office this week: Spike Jonze’s fanciful film adaption of the perennial childhood favorite, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The flick was officially the film of choice this weekend, pulling in a whopping $32.5 million.

Sendak’s story, well known for its poignant themes of family and the conflicts it engenders, has some interestingly Jewish roots. Born in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Sendak modeled his “wild things” on aunts and uncles who visited his family’s Brooklyn home on weekends during his childhood.
JTA's story on this references 2003 and 2005 interviews Sendak gave to New York's Jewish Museum and the Los Angeles Times.

... the author said that his only relief from these family members, who pinched his cheeks and had voracious appetites, "was to examine those relatives critically and make note of every mole, every bloodshot eye, every hair curling out of every nostril, every blackened tooth." Sendak even modeled one of the book’s famed phrases, “I’ll eat you up!” from a similar, albeit friendlier saying these relatives used to use: “You're so cute, I could eat you up.”
The original title was "Where the Wild Horses are," but his horse drawings weren't that great. He finally based his drawings on his relatives: "They're all dead now, so I can tell people."

The story goes on to comment on his heritage and growing up in Brooklyn among Yiddish-speaking immigrants, and also references other characters from his writings.

A first generation American, many of his relatives perished in the Holocaust (his paternal grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins). His writings and drawings, according to the story, show his "journey to emotionally process the Holocaust."

In his Zlateh the Goat (which Tracing the Tribe has always liked) his illustrations include portraits of relatives who perished.

The story also details his illustrated book and opera - Brundibar - which was based on a 1938 children's opera by Hans Krasa. Sendak created the book's illustrations, the sets and costumes.

Brundibar follows two penniless children, Pepicek and Aninku, who set out in search of milk to feed their sick mother. The hurdles they overcome in the process, including an encounter with the teenaged bully Brundibar, became symbolic of the resistance of inmates at Terezin concentration camp, where the opera was originally performed by young Jewish prisoners.
There's also a surprising connection with Spike Jonze (born Adam Spiegel), the great-great-grandson of Joseph Spiegel of Spiegel catalog fame.

Read the complete article at the link above! And remember, when you are tempted, about pinching those cheeks. You might be reincarnated in a book or film.

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday night i saw its review and i can say that i never waste my night...