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Movie Review: Four Seasons Lodge

Alternate Title: Lust for Life

Story: A spirited, upbeat film about Holocaust survivors is not your usual fare. However, director and writer Andrew Jacobs has sensitively delivered us such a film. Ably supported by director of photography Albert Maysles we meet a group of survivors who share a lust for life that is contagious.

The survivors are all from Poland, Austria and Hungary. When they somehow found themselves in the United States after WWII, they also somehow slowly found one another. Their common thread was the unspeakable horror they all shared.

To enjoy life to the fullest, though dark memories haunt them all, they gather each summer at one of the last bungalow colonies in New York's Catskill Mountains. They collectively bought shares in the place and in their 26th year (which could be their last) as owners we catch up with them. Well into their late 70's and 80's these once hearty people are now the invisible Grandparents we do not notice in the streets. To one another, they are still vibrant and share their joy. They dance, they eat, they laugh, they play cards and they get entertained by some of the last of the Borscht Belt entertainers in the evening.

We get to meet only a handful of the survivors and get to hear bits and pieces of their stories. Some refuse to discuss the past. I got hooked by this group of people and left the theater with a little bounce in my step as I tried to emulate their zest for life.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2vUpE9sWyw

Acting: This is a documentary so this category does not apply. Here are some of the major players in this film and you can read more about some of these happy campers here: http://www.fourseasonsmovie.org/campers.html

Hymie Abramowitz, Tosha Abramowitz, Aron Adelman, Basie Adelman, Olga Bowman, Eugenia Boyman, Tobias Buchman, Carl Potok, Cesia Popk, Lola Wenglin.

Trivia: From the film's web site: Andrew Jacobs has been a staff writer at the New York Times for the past 8 years, where he has covered a wide variety of beats, from the American South and the aftermath of Sept. 11, to New Jersey politics and the New York City Police Department. The idea for "Four Seasons" grew out of a six-part series Jacobs did for the Times about summer life in the Catskills. A graduate of New York University, Mr. Jacobs spent a year teaching and writing in China during the pro-democracy movement. He also owns an old dairy farm in Ulster County, NY, not far from the Four Seasons Lodge. Albert Maysles is a pioneer of Direct Cinema who, along with his brother David, was the first to make nonfiction feature films (Grey Gardens, Salesman, Gimme Shelter) where the drama of life unfolds without scripts, sets, interviews or narration. With his first film, Psychiatry In Russia (1955) he made the transition from psychologist to documentary filmmaker. In 1960 he co-created Primary. His 36 films include What's Happening: The Beatles in the USA (1964), five films of the projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1972 to 1995), and three documentaries for HBO. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1965), a Peabody, an Emmy, five Lifetime Achievement Awards, the award for best cinematography at Sundance (2002) for Lalee's Kin, which was also nominated in 2001 for an Academy Award and most recently, the Columbia Dupont Award (2004). In 1999 Eastman Kodak saluted him as one of the 100 world's finest cinematographers.

Predilection: I like documentaries and I am drawn to films about Survivors.

Critters: A gopher.

Food: It is a bungalow Colony filled with Jews? Is there food? Vu den? White fish, lox, onions, bagels, tomatoes, lettuce and on and on. Yummy.

Sex Spectrum: Sex is joked about quite a bit.

Soundtrack: A delightful mix of ethnic, Broadway and other tunes including 'I Will Survive.'

Opening Titles: A landscape shot of the changing seasons and the opening of the Colony for the summer months.

Visual Art: Albert Maysles is a master photographer and his handiwork is visible throughout the film. I especially liked his subtle passing of the seasons at the opening and closing of the film.

Theater Audience: Less than a minyan.

Weather: Mostly filmed in the summer but we do catch shots of the symbolic passing seasons.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Seeing those horrifying arm tattoos from the concentration camps is very hard to accept.

Drift Factor: I thought the beginning was a bit slow.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: I welled up a few times.

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: If you can find it I always recommend the big screen but rental would be fine too.

Length: Under two hours.