A surprisingly good independent film|
1 July 2002
I found out about this movie in a fairly unusual way: the summer camp used
as a location for filming was owned by close relatives and I watched the
video while visiting my relatives at the actual location where as a
10-year-old I'd been a camper myself, only a few years after the era
portrayed in this film.
The actual camp, Camp Mohawk, was nothing like the Orthodox Jewish camp
portrayed in the film. It was not a religious camp and discipline was
the bare minimum necessary to keep campers from drowning each other in the
lake. It was pretty casual.
The summer camp shown in Camp Stories, on the other hand -- if
writer/director Biegel is to be believed -- was more akin to eight weeks
spent at a Young Communist camp in the Soviet Union: a maniacal head
counsellor on a power trip, an Orthodox Jewish camp owner who thinks rock
and roll is obscene, religious rules that kept boys and girls on opposite
sides on the camp, the slightest infraction punished by dangerous physical
torture -- and a sign posted near the mail room promising campers that any
mail complaining to their parents would be censored.
As I said, the actual summer camp this movie was filmed at was nothing like
But as a small independent film, this picture wasn't bad. I thought the
acting was good throughout, the writing and directing more than competent,
and good use was made of the locations.
The story is a not-untypical story of minor teenage rebellion against the
artificially repressive sexual code of the 1950's -- or at least how the
Baby Boom campers remember it. It's a
story, a sexy-wife-cheats-on-her-anal-retentive husband story, and a
religious-culture-meets-the-outside-world story. The Orthodox Jews
in this movie are only one step less out-of-touch than the Amish portrayed
in Witness -- in other words, clueless. And, of course, any healthy
without salt peter in the food is not going to take to this sort of
religious repression without a fight.
Technically -- for writing, acting, directing, cinematography, editing, and
musical score -- I gave this movie an 8 out of 10. It definitely should
find, even at this late date, distribution on video and DVD, and deserves
be seen on the premium cable networks and late-night TV. It's a natural for
the Independent Film Channel and the Sundance Channel. With a cast
Jerry Stiller, Elliot Gould, Talia Shire, Paul Sand, and Jason Biggs, it's
surprising to me that this picture hasn't found a home.