A whimsical French dramedy about religious family values.

In “Rashevski’s Tango,” Sam Garbarski’s clumsily whimsical French dramedy about religious family values, the apparently agnostic matriarch of the titular clan chooses to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. After the funeral, each family member — and there are lots — immediately undergoes a crisis of faith as Judaism starts busting out all over. Pic touchingly conveys the everyday closeness of the Rashevskis, who are wont to tango their troubles away, but spiritual upheavals and tonal shifts feel artificial and strained. Belated Sept. 11 Gotham bow of this 2003 ethnic hugfest should please target auds, but a broader epiphany seems unlikely.

The first directorial outing for Garbarski, here working with scripter Philippe Blasband (the pair later collaborated on 2007’s “Irina Palm”), “Tango” attempts to choreograph a complex tangle of characters experiencing conversions, Holocaust memories, ghostly visitations, Arab weddings, jaunts to Israel and painfully late circumcisions. The result is an ungainly pileup of quick-fix resolutions that undermine the fine character-building efforts of vet thesps like Hippolyte Giradot, Michel Jonasz, Daniel Mesguich and Natan Cogan, with the distaff half of the cast stuck in less distinguished, more caricatured roles.

Rashevski's Tango

Belgium

Production

A Menemsha Films (in U.S.) release of an Entre Chien et Loup production in co-production with Archipel 35, Samsa Film, Ateliers de Baere, Radio Television Belge Francophone, WFE. Produced by Diana Elbaum, Executive producer, Benedicte Bellocq. Co-producers, Denis Freyd, Jani Thiltges, Arlette Zylberberg. Directed by Sam Garbarski. Screenplay, Philippe Blasband, from an idea by Garbarski.

Crew

Camera (color), Virginie Saint-Martin; editor, Ludo Troch; music, Michael Galasso; production designer, Veronique Sacrez. Reviewed on DVD, Montreal, Sept. 1, 2009. Original title: Le Tango des Rashevski. French, Hebrew, English dialogue. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Natan Cogan, Hippolyte Giradot, Daniel Mesguich, Rudi Rosenberg, Michel Jonasz, Tania Garbarski, Jonathan Zaccai, Ludmila Mikael.
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