What do Jews do on Purim? This one went to see “Book of Mormon,” natch (at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where it runs through Apr. 3). This Trey Parker-Robert Lopez-Matt Stone musical appears to be an amusing but innocuous satire at first, opening with a parade of missionaries zealously ringing doorbells.

The show soon reveals its real mission, offering something to offend nearly everyone, and gradually ratchets up the raunch until the audience is virtually swimming in sleaze. From defecation and bestiality to anal sex and AIDS—not to mention Disney World—everything is a joking matter. The book and lyrics might be called Rabelaisian if they weren’t so sorely lacking in wit; the show may be a hot ticket, but an energetic ensemble cast is wasting a lot of talent at SCFTA.

At the other end of the spectrum is “Flory’s Flame,” an award-winning 60-minute documentary that’s been screening at film festivals everywhere (available on DVD from JEMGLO). Judeo-Spanish musician Flory Jagoda and her legacy is the focus of this heart-warming film, which intersperses the Sephardic songs the nonagenarian has perpetuated with her memories of growing up during the Holocaust. You won’t be able to watch it with a dry eye if you have any soul.

Filmmaker and archivist Ross Lipman’s “Notfilm” is destined to become a must-see for two distinctly different groups of people—aficionados of comedian Buster Keaton and Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett, especially the latter. The documentary, which debuts next week in Hollywood (April 1-9 at the American Cinematheque) and New York, explores the strange collaboration between the two, the 1965 avant-garde short simply titled “Film.”

The doc (which will also be available on DVD from Milestone Film & Video along with a restored version of “Film”) is full of great surprises—including long-lost outtakes and a rare audio recording of Beckett discussing the project. It’s also a bit disappointing; Lipman goes off on every conceivable tangent but barely hints at the initial casting of Jack MacGowran, for whom Beckett wrote the similarly themed “Eh Joe.”

Writer-director Marya Cohn’s first film is no “Citizen Kane,” and that’s in her favor. “The Girl in the Book” (available on DVD from Monarch Home Entertainment) is an intimate personal film about real world flesh-and-blood characters that draw you in at once. Alice (Emily VanCamp) is a young woman with writer’s block and a ghost in her past (Michael Nyqvist) whose present-day shadow looms large, in this highly likeable romantic drama set in Manhattan’s publishing world.

New York’s contemporary art scene comes alive in “Swim Little Fish Swim,” a charming naturalistic drama written and directed by Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar in their feature film debut (available on DVD from Indie Pix Films). Lilas, an aspiring video artist from France (Bessis), is trying to make her own way in the world when her life intersects with Leeward, a quirky musician and irresponsible husband-father (Dustin Guy Defa); the characters are so lifelike you’ll swear you know them.


Author: Jordan R. Young

Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.