Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years (Yale Strom)

Rating: ** (out of ****)

I was about to begin by remarking that watching Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years is a bit like watching somebody else's home movies, but I've just realized that I was mistaken: it's exactly like watching somebody else's home movies. There's a certain amount of novelty in store for viewers like myself, who have neither visited the Carpathian mountains nor previously seen this landscape and its inhabitants on film, but in every other way it's not at all unlike the average wedding or birthday-party videotape, albeit more skillfully edited. Yale Strom (whose previous feature, The Last Klezmer, which I somehow missed, sounds considerably more interesting to me) stumbled onto an amiable fellow by the name of Zev Goldinger, and Carpati amiably follows Goldinger around, observing his daily life and his relationships with neighbors (mostly Gypsies); eventually, he decides (or is persuaded, I'd wager) to return from Beregovo, where he's lived since his liberation from Auschwitz fifty years earlier, to his boyhood home, fifty miles away, thus conveniently providing Strom with a catchy title for his movie. (I realize that that's awfully cynical, but don't stop me, I'm on a roll.) Unfortunately, though Goldinger certainly seems to be a very pleasant and compassionate man, his personality isn't nearly compelling enough to serve as the focus of a feature-length movie, and Strom's attempts to mine his life in general and this journey in particular for thematic material are rather feeble. The film is sometimes briefly enlivened by traditional Yiddish music on the soundtrack, and features occasional (and unforgivably bland) narration by Leonard Nimoy, for no apparent reason other than the vain hope that confused Trekkies might turn up at screenings.