On March 22, I went to a “Serious Night” party at B’nai Emet synagogue, in St. Louis Park, MN where the bar mitzvah scenes as well as some others in the Coen brothers film “A Serious Man” were filmed.
One of the audience members recounted his query to one of the Coen brothers asking why the opening scene was in Yiddish and set in Eastern Europe. His reply, “We wanted to introduce audiences to the world of a Jewish movie.”
The problem is that the world of the Jewish movie is not in the distant past, it is in the here and now, among the young extras from the movie selling paper flowers and collecting donations to benefit victims of the Haitian earthquake, couples in their teens and twenties dancing to Israeli music, and the old folks, as at an actual bar mitzvah, looking at family pictures on display. In this case the photos were of the extras in costume, and photos from the film’s 1967 era courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.