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To Dust- Review

While many “feel good” movies are exhaulted with ad lines exclaiming “a celebration of life”, this new “dramedy” might best be tagged as, well, not a celebration, but rather “an exploration of life…and death”. Yes, the “D-word” figures most prominently in this piece, but from a most unexpected angle. It concerns a man from a strict religious order, a Hasidic man, who finds no real comfort from his faith after death takes his beloved, and so he turns, not to drugs or booze, but to science. He cannot put his life back into order until he knows the length of time for flesh to turn To Dust.

We meet the focus of the story, a cantor in Upstate New York named Shumel (Geza Rohrig) on probably the worst day of his life as his wife succumbs to cancer. As her body is quickly washed and prepared for near immediate burial,
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Movie Review – To Dust (2018)

To Dust, 2018.

Directed by Shawn Snyder

Starring Géza Röhrig, Matthew Broderick, Sammy Voit, and Leo Heller

Synopsis:

Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor in Upstate New York, distraught by the untimely death of his wife, struggles to find religious solace, while secretly obsessing over how her body will decay. As a clandestine partnership develops with Albert, a local community college biology professor, the two embark on a darkly comic and increasingly literal undertaking into the underworld.

Everyone deals with loss in their own way, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone obsess over body deterioration from six feet under as part of an existential crisis where religion and science are pondered equally. Here’s where things get really bizarre; To Dust funnels all of these dark musings into something of a buddy comedy utilizing gallows humor and sharp dialogue to present this unorthodox manner of coping with death.

Géza
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Body and soul by Anne-Katrin Titze

Géza Röhrig stars opposite Matthew Broderick in Shawn Snyder's adventurous To Dust Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Following a conversation on Sunset with László Nemes, the director of the Oscar-winning Son Of Saul, which starred Géza Röhrig, I headed down from the Film Society of Lincoln Center to the Village East Cinema for an opening weekend post-screening discussion with Géza, To Dust director Shawn Snyder and his co-screenwriter Jason Begue.

Before questions and comment from the audience, I started where I left off with László - Ts Eliot's The Waste Land and what is in The Burial Of The Dead. A woman's voice sings a lullaby at the beginning of To Dust and Shmuel (Röhrig) closes the film with the same haunting song in the bedroom of his two boys, Noam and Naftali (Leo Heller and Sammy Voit) right before Tom Waits' Blow Wind Blow is heard over the end credits.
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Year of the Pig by Anne-Katrin Titze

Géza Röhrig on his co-star Matthew Broderick in Shawn Snyder's To Dust: "He's a born comedian." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Shawn Snyder was the winner of the Tribeca Film Festival New Narrative Director Competition and Audience Award for To Dust, co-written with Jason Begue, shot by Xavi Giménez, which stars Matthew Broderick and Géza Röhrig as a well-matched odd couple. The film, co-produced by Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola, with music by Tom Waits, Jethro Tull, and a score by Ariel Marx, has a terrific supporting cast, including Natalie Carter as security guard Stella by Starlight, Joseph Siprut as the undertaker, and two young boys, Leo Heller and Sammy Voit, who secretly watch Michal Waszynski's The Dybbuk.

A grave Albert (Matthew Broderick) with Shmuel (Géza Röhrig) in To Dust

Géza Röhrig, who was Saul Ausländer in László Nemes's Oscar-winning Son Of Saul, sat down with me at the
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Matthew Broderick & Géza Röhrig in Official Trailer for 'To Dust' Film

"What are you after, Shmuel? What is this all about?" Good Deed Ent. has unveiled the first official trailer for an indie dark comedy titled To Dust, the feature directorial debut of Harvard graduate, singer-turned-filmmaker named Shawn Snyder. The film is about a Hasidic cantor's struggle to find religious solace after his wife's untimely death, while secretly obsessing over how her body will decay once buried. He befriends a local community college biology professor, seeking his help to understand what's happening underground. Géza Röhrig stars as Shmuel, along with Matthew Broderick, and the full cast includes Sammy Voit, Bern Cohen, Ben Hammer, Leo Heller, and Marceline Hugot. This film looks very peculiar but also rather unique and quite amusing, especially with Broderick giving this kind of kooky, quirky performance. Here's the first official trailer (+ poster) for Shawn Snyder's To Dust, direct from YouTube:
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Tribeca Film Review: ‘To Dust’

  • Variety
The mordant side of Jewish humor is pushed to an extreme in Shawn Snyder’s debut feature “To Dust.” This gently absurdist — yet also sometimes downright icky — tale revolves around a grief-stricken Hasidic widower who enlists a Gentile biology teacher in an obsessive quest to grasp the decomposition process of his late wife’s body. As story concepts go, that’s an exceptionally unappealing one, particularly for what plays mostly as a low-key buddy comedy. Nonetheless, the deft execution and astute lead performances ultimately make this acquired taste of a movie not only digestible, but rather charming.

Despite the considerable support of his Upstate New York Orthodox community and all its reassuring rituals around death, 40ish cantor Shmuel can’t seem to cope after his spouse dies of cancer. His live-in mother (Janet Sarno) provides for the basic needs of his two young sons, but they have their own grief and other emotional wants,
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8 Indies That Are Honest About Teen Sexuality, From ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ to ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’

8 Indies That Are Honest About Teen Sexuality, From ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ to ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’
Risky and risqué, indie films have always been a home for bold, honest, and controversial visions of teens’ sexuality. Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats,” opening this week after bowing at Sundance in January, is another notch in the belt of the sub-genre, a sensitive and often shocking look inside the coming-of-age of a young Brooklyn teen.

Like the best of these films, it’s not all about hormones; it builds on questions about identity and desire. But that’s there too, in sensitively crafted scenes that don’t skimp on reality. Punctuated by some bad choices and an unnerving final act, “Beach Rats” embraces the full spectrum of teen sexuality, even when it’s not exactly alluring.

Read More:Why ‘Beach Rats’ Breakout Harris Dickinson Isn’t Afraid Of Risqué Roles (Or Sex Scenes) — Sundance Springboard

Here are eight indie films that engage with the subject matter in appropriately intimate ways.
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