(Ted Kotcheff, 1974)
Now here is a movie where competence is real and very much beneficial - abetted by the source material, of course, but there was no reason for it to translate as beautifully as it does. Very often tragic and hilarious at one and the same time, Kotcheff is sure-handed and confident and in control. The first asset - pretty much perfect performances by a top-tier cast from our nation and theirs - doesn't dominate so much that you overlook the remarkable accumulation of detail that is going on in the background. This is an immersive tour of Jewish life in Montreal at a certain time - in repose I'm finding myself recollecting the smells of individual scenes, always a sign that someone's thought things through. But of course it wouldn't be Richler without the smart-ass asides, piled on at a blinding pace that never feels unduly rushed. The greatest of these is of course "Happy Bar Mitzvah Bernie", a note-perfect attack on the film culture state policy was leaving behind at this time, and it's such a perfect skewering of pretentious self-centered bullshit that it didn't even occur to me to feel defensive.