Hester Street

 (Joan Micklin Silver, 1975)




The series of the Lumière festival, entitled Permanent History of Female Directors, illustrates the audacity of these filmmakers, who take their disconcerting ideas and make unexpected films. In 1975, a period picture was released, in black and white, set in a small community of Yiddish-speaking Jewish emigrants: Hester Street.




What could have been a surprisingly descriptive work of a picturesque environment, is in reality a completely personal romantic vision of a love story. A father, an immigrant in his thirties, is joined by his young wife and son in America, where he has been working for some time. What is problematic, is the man is in love with another woman he met in his new homeland. In this love triangle, it is the tender, legitimate wife, rejected upon arrival, who interests Joan Micklin Silver. In this role, that at first glance may seem meek or bland, the elegiac actress Carole Kane (nominated for an Oscar for her performance) garners all the attention. She imposes her pallor and heartbroken eyes with an intensity that makes her indispensable in every scene. Her movements of a little mouse who respects the laws of her community, while very quickly assimilating, now that she lives in another territory with other codes, make her the big winner of this whole story. Micklin Silver films the character as respectful of traditions, forced to wear a distressing wig in public before quietly breaking free.


Virginie Apiou



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