Thank You And Goodnight

Many years in the making, Jan Oxenberg’s highly personal, often engaging, and suprisingly entertaining documentary about the death of her maternal grandmother has a lot to say about New York Jewish families, the meaning of home, memories of food, and the complex work of mourning. One sign of Oxenberg’s eclecticism is the frequent jokey uses of painted cutouts of herself and her grandmother to represent various themes and issues; they don’t always work, but it’s still interesting to see how much creative use she can make of them. We learn a lot about her grandmother and other family members over the course of the filmeverything from the meaning of life and death to the question of who inherits the grandmother’s TV gets pondered and negotiatedand their awareness that they’re being filmed adds a great deal to the emotional resonance. While there’s an occasional strain in the film’s efforts to remain cheerful at all costs, the overall achievement is impressive and full of reverberations (1991). (JR)

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