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    STUDIA DRAMATICA - Issue no. 1 / 2010  

Authors:  DORU POP.
  Abstract:  What is the essence of Jewish humor and how does this kind humor come into place in movies and in cinematic storytelling? Is there a characteristic of the “laughable” in the Bible and in the traditions of the Jewish community? Or should we consider, as some authors have suggested (Eckardt, 1992), that the notion of ‘‘Jewish humor” should be replaced with the more politically correct phrase “humor amongst Jews”, since the first term is too constricting and stereotyping, while other authors, like Patricia Erens, provide arguments for the existence of a ”Yiddish narrative” in cinema, attempting to identify general elements of this narrative: pathos, humor and humanity (Erens, 1984). And, if we can use the term Jewish humor, what are the fundamental elements to be found in cinema? Using the Romanian-born, French director Radu Mihăileanu as an example, I found one answer he himself has given to the set of questions on what Jewish humor is, with reference to “other” types of humor. “The Jewish tell a lot of jokes about themselves... about their mother, about their rabbi, about their accountant, about God. They are always discussing with God” (Mihăileanu, 2000). The second level of questioning refers to the general mechanism that puts into place the Jewish humor, what is its main resource. On possible answer is to be found with Henri Bergson, who, in his seminal book on laughter, Le rire (Bergson, 1901), suggests that laughter evolved to make social life possible for human beings. If we use his argument in trying to explain Jewish humor in cinema, we can start from the theoretical premise that laughter makes possible social circumstances that are otherwise unbearable for humans beings. This I believe to be explicit with Radu Mihăileanu`s cinema – and I will refer in this paper to three of his movies: Train de vie (Train of life, 1998), Va, vis et deviens (Live and become, 2005) and Le Concert (The Concert, 2009), all three having in their center the problems of identity (Jewish and non-Jewish) and Jewishness as a social phenomena.

Keywords: Humor is cinema, Radu Mihăileanu, Jewish humor, Ethnic stereotypes in jokes, comedy dialogues and characters in cinema
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