Paul Shrader Eats Dirt: Israel Film Festival

12/07/2009 10:01 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you missed Paul Shrader's last film Adam Resurrected, you can find it at the 24th Israel Film Festival, now playing at the SVA Theatre on 23 Street through next weekend. An examination of the period after The Holocaust based upon Yoram Kaniuk's 1971 novel, "Adam Resurrected" with its disturbing depiction of a comic who survived the concentration camps as a Nazi commando's pet dog (Jeff Goldblum in an elastic Gumby defying role to Willem Dafoe's absurdist oppressor), mostly takes place in a post-war mental institution in Israel.

On Saturday night, Paul Shrader was honored with an Achievement in Film Award presented by Jeff Goldblum who praised the director of such gutsy films as Mishima and Auto Focus for being a "champion of strange love between people." He then explained something about Shrader's direction to the rapt audience. In one emotional scene, Goldblum's character visits the grave of his daughter and in his grief eats the flowers he brought there. Of course the prop people supplied edible blooms. But Shrader wanted to go further and directed Goldblum to eat the earth. So where was the chocolate simulated dirt? Shrader spontaneously showed Goldblum how to scoop up the ground-and he ate it. Accepting his green statue, Shrader urged everyone to see Goldblum's performance. "You won't be disappointed," he said.

The same can be said for the festival in general, if the opening night film, A Matter of Size directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, is indicative. Let's just say, there's more exposed flesh in this film about four fatsos who want to be suma wrestlers than any I've seen this year--and most of it jiggles.

Don Krim of Kino International, a film distribution company that has represented many Israeli films including those of Amos Gitai over the years was also honored with the 2009 Visionary Award, announcing his company's merger with Koch Lorber. Having attended the Academy Awards when Beaufort was nominated, Krim pointed out the richness of Israeli cinema as he has watched the industry grow.

The third award, for Lifetime Achievement, went to Elliot Gould, presented by Dr. Gabriela Shalev, Israel's UN ambassador, a proper looking diminutive woman who announced that she saw the actor in bed. Of course that movie was Bob Ted Carol and Alice from the year when ménages of all sorts were de rigueur. She also noted his performance in Robert Altman's Mash, "a film that still resonates with us." Gould noted we are all at war with ignorance, desperation and fear. As Elliot Goldstein from Brooklyn, he wished all a Happy Chanukah filled with joy and light.