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Menashe
Year:
2017
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama
IMDB rating:
6.4
Director:
Joshua Z Weinstein
Meyer Schwartz as The Rabbi
Ruben Niborski as Rieven - Menashe's son (as Ruben Niborsk)
Menashe Lustig as Menashe
Yoel Falkowitz as Fischel
Storyline: Menashe, a widower, lives and works within the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since his wife passed away a year before, he has been trying hard to regain custody of his nine-year-old son, Rieven. But the rabbi (and all the community behind him) will not hear of it unless he re-marries, which Menashe does not want, his first marriage having been very unhappy. Father and son get on well together, but can Menashe take care of Rieven properly? Not really for all his goodwill as he holds down a low-paid job as a grocery clerk that consumes too much of his efforts and energy. Always late, always in a hurry, he endeavors to improve himself though. But will his efforts be enough to convince the rabbi that he can be a good father without a wife at home?
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Reviews
Got my attention with a vision I've never see before on an old story.
Really like the film.

I'm hoping that I got a pretty actuate perceptive on the Hasidic Jewish community. I'm aware of some aspects about how women are treated as a whole, which for me, made it more interesting that the movie tells a story about a widowed father trying to raise his son in a society that says he can't do it.You don't see that enough in movies in general. A man doing what he has to to be a man in order to raise his child alone, and I'm seeing it in the most rarest prospective.

It reminds me of Moonlight, it's not really a story I've never herd before but nobody tells the story from this unique angel.

Brilliant! http://cinemagardens.com
2017-08-14
A Different Type Of Story, But Its Themes Are For All Of Us.
Struggle is something that is universal. Adversity doesn't care who you are, where you have come from, or even who you know. Granted, it can be relative, but no matter who you are, road blocks are still road blocks. Documentarian and first-time narrative director Joshua Z. Weinstein takes this theme but looks at it from a different direction with "Menashe," featured at this year's Dallas International Film Festival and now getting a wider release.

The title character is played by Menashe Lustig and is a widower who is just trying to get by in his ultra-orthodox Jewish community. He is still mourning the loss of his wife a year later while constantly chasing his bills working at a local Jewish market, and he is also dealing with the fact that he does not have custody of his son, Rieven (Ruben Nidorski) due to his religious beliefs that children must be raised in a two-parent household. Until he remarries, Rieven has to live with his brother, Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus), and his family. Menashe has always been seen as the lesser of his siblings, so he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and responsibility just to try for a normal life.

Weinstein takes his documentary-style of filming (with no score and a lot of steady-cam shots) and applies it here, which gives it an intimate feel that really enhanced my emotional investment into his story (which he also co-wrote with Alex Lipschultz). In my comments to our vendor after the screening, I used the phrase "both heartbreaking and heartwarming," and this is the best way I can describe "Menashe". Lustig plays the lead character in a way that even though his struggles are specific to a demographic, there are themes of independence, responsibility, and family that each and every one of us can identify with and feel for him during. His work with Nidorski is very organic, and it works on every level. Almost the entire film is translated from Yiddish, but as real and powerful as this story is, the subtitling bothered me even less than it normally does.

It is true that this film may not be seen as "for everyone" due to the community that it takes place in, but I fully and whole-heartedly disagree. Its universal themes are presented in a way that its context is well-explained so that the audience can see why the traditions are what they are. Much like "Donovan" earlier this year, "Menashe" is an independent film that tells its story in an honest and grounded way that deserves to be seen by as large of an audience as possible.
2017-08-29
Old world story of personal struggle, low-key and affecting
This quiet drama portrays the scuffling life of a man within the Hasidic community in Brooklyn as he endeavors to regain custody of his son in the aftermath of his wife's passing. He is expected to find a new wife and achieve stability as he holds down a low-paying, labor-intensive job as a grocery clerk that drains him of his time and his spirit. He has difficulty keeping his own modest life in order, let alone being strong enough to provide for another human being.

His efforts to better himself in order to regain custody of his son are met with dismissal from those around him, including his more devout and financially stable brother-in-law whom the community has decided should look after the man's son. He gets little encouragement from those within his community, yet he persists.

There is a considerable schism within the Hasidic community that comes to light in this film, especially on account of the man's less-than-pious lifestyle and more secular demeanor. He doesn't readily embrace the hard-line teachings of his sect as forcefully as his peers, but he nevertheless wants what's best for his son and wants to fulfill the requirements of his denomination in order to remain a real father. In that regard, this is an exceptional portrayal of loyalty to one's religious faith in the face of ongoing personal conflict. It's definitely not for many viewers who wouldn't relate to religious doctrine as a deciding force in one's life, but it's still a story that's effectively conveyed and devoid of proselytizing. Recommended to open-minded viewers.
2017-07-30
Authentic, Emotional Masterpiece
Menashe is an authentic, emotional masterpiece telling the story of a kind, hapless, Hasidic grocery store clerk who battles to keep his family together after his wife dies. Directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein and starring Menashe Lustig, the film was shot clandestinely because of the beliefs of the Orthodox Jewish sect. I love this film because it took willpower to make. You can't say that about many films nowadays.

Menashe is about a kindhearted, but miserable grocery store employee that must remarry in order to care for his only son. It is against the Hasidic beliefs that a child be taken care of without a mother in the home. While Menashe ponders his situation, his well-off brother-in-law is given custody of Rieven by their Rabbi. Menashe is frustrated by this and is only able to get back custody of his son for a week, while he looks for a new wife. It doesn't seem that he really wants to get remarried, because when he goes on one date he isn't particularly friendly.

Unlike the rest of his family and friends, Menashe is more at ease with the secular society surrounding them in Brooklyn. He dresses more casually, without the requisite black hat and coat. While he takes his religion seriously, he wants to embrace life and freedom, more than the sect allows. My favorite part of this film is when Menashe drinks malt liquor with the Hispanic employees after his late night shift. They talk about life and try to get Menashe back on track.

One of the attributes of this film is the way it educates you about the culture of ultra Orthodox Judaism. The other very impressive fact is that it is the first film in 70 years to be filmed in Yiddish. Most of the film is subtitled for those who don't speak Yiddish. Both Menashe Lustig and young Ruben Niborski convey the closeness they have between father and son. One downside of the film is that it is low budget, which is reflected in its grainy resolution. Some of that could also be due to the fact that it was shot in secret.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars for its authenticity and emotional punch. I recommend it for ages 13 through 18. The film is in limited release throughout the country at art house cinemas.

Reviewed by Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
2017-08-28
Orthodox Jewish widower submits to community norms to recover son.
This yiddish-language film is so compelling as an ethnological study of the Brooklyn Hasidic orthodox Jewish community that we might overlook its universal theme. As Renoir put it in Rules of the Game, The terrible thing is that everyone has his reasons.

The loser hero Menashe (that's three syllables) wants to raise his young son Reuven whom he loves and enjoys being with. But the ruling rabbi cites the Torah injunction that a child must be raised by a couple. Menashe must marry if he wants his son back.

But Menashe has already suffered through one loveless arranged marriage so doesn't want another. On the other hand, he respects his dead wife enough to keep a movie of her on his cellphone. He insists on hosting her memorial service in his cramped flat instead of at her brother's commodious home. That ceremony will prove he can be responsible — except it doesn't. He burns the kugel.

If the rabbi seems unfeeling when he rules against Menashe as a father, he has the saving excuse of total commitment to his faith. He brings a kind of order and stability to his people. He shows a saving grace when he insists Menashe's kugel is not a failure, indeed "fit for a king." The rabbi has his reasons. If the religious extremity seems inhumane the rabbi isn't.

So has the brother-in-law, who resents Menashe's callous treatment of his sick wife but is committed to giving nephew Reuven a life the boy's father can't. He'll give the boy back when he can.

The film focuses on the Hasidic male community. The men are seen praying, schmoozing, singing, dancing, drinking, everything together, no women present.

The female fringe is their suffering largely invisible support: the mother on her third grocery trip that week to feed her eight children, the four-month widow on a date with the 12- month widower who insults her by saying she's not his "type." Another prospect is a beauty freshly divorced from her abusive husband. An unseen daughter wants to go to college but her father won't let her.

When Menashe asks a neighbour for a kugel recipe she immediately offers to bake him one. The women's reflex is to serve the men. That's their place, their stability. In her kitchen, sullenly kneading the dough for the sabbath bread is another woman, beaten down, defeated.

Quietly, the film traces Menashe's reform. He's criticized for not wearing a jacket and hat, for dressing like the grocery cashier he is. But his last appearance is in full suit and hat, striding through the Brooklyn streets. To recover his son he will accept the religious stricture, accept an arranged marriage, rein in his secular impulses and accept the regimen of his community.

To the film's credit this reform is only thus suggested. No specific explanation is given. Perhaps it was his failure to deliver even the supermarket kugel successfully, or the warmth of the rabbi's support, or the realization that he had no alternative if he wanted his son back. Or it was the death of the baby chicken he was trying to raise on his own, for Reuven's diversion and affection.

But another scene is equally apposite. Menashe and two Latino coworkers get drunk and candid in the storeroom. The two Latinos sing their songs. They bemoan their wives and envy his bachelor freedom. That prompts him to recall the misery of his first marriage, his initial relief at her death. Then he reflects on his even greater misery now and perhaps at this point resolves upon his reform.

So he laughs away their suggestion they go get drunk together Friday night. That's his people's shabbes. So he takes the ritual bath and, purified of worldly contamination and self- interest, returns to the fold. A man as well as the women can abandon fulfilment for their restrictive faith.
2017-09-05
Incisve portrait of Hasidic widower from first-time feature director
Menashe is documentary turned first feature filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein's meditation on the insular Jewish Hasidic community in Brooklyn. We rarely get to get much of a peek as to what Hasidic people are really like so Weinstein's portrait of a beleaguered denizen of that community is most welcome.

Weinstein has based his story on the real-life machinations of his star, Menashe Lustig, who never saw a movie until this film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Menashe lost his wife in real life so that's the starting point here—the conflict is an immediate one, as Talmudic Law has decreed that he is not allowed to take care of his 7 year old son, Rieven (played by the sensational child actor, Ruben Niborski), unless he finds a new wife.

Rieven has been placed with Menashe's brother-in-law, the stern Eizik (very convincingly played by Yoel Weisshaus) who looks down on Menashe as he believes he has no self-respect. Indeed, one film critic has likened Menashe to a Jewish "Marty," perpetually fixated in an earlier period of adolescent development. He is a bit of a "schmiel," with his portly appearance and refusal to dress up in the traditional Hasidic garb of hat and coat. What's more he's always broke, toiling in a dead-end job at a neighborhood grocery store run by his critical and demanding Hasidic boss (the brother-in-law, in contrast, is well-off real estate investor).

We soon learn why Menashe is in no hurry to get married again—simply put, he was always arguing with his first wife which made his life a living hell. He gets fixed up by a matchmaker but his date turns out to be as critical as his boss and brother-in-law. His only recourse is to beg the "Ruv" (his rabbi) to allow him to raise his son on his own. The Ruv won't hear of that arrangement and only gives Menashe one week to find a new partner or the boy must be returned to the brother-in-law.

It becomes clear that Menashe truly loves his son but his parenting skills are questionable—at one point he becomes a bit intoxicated during some after dinner drinking with friends in the home, with the son ending up calling the uncle to pick him up. Later his son changes his mind and decides to stay with Menashe for the time being.

Menashe is determined to prove to his brother-in-law as well as the Rabbi that he's not as hopeless as he's perceived and insists on hosting the luncheon after the memorial service for his wife. But things go awry after he comes back home with his guests only to find his apartment filled with smoke after leaving the oven on in an attempt to bake his next-door neighbor's kugel recipe on his own. This is after he ruins about a $1,000 worth of fish while foolishly leaving the back door of a van open while driving, while on the job.

Menashe ends on the right note. SPOILERS AHEAD. It's as simple as his self-realization that if he wants to get his son back, he'll have to find a wife. So he puts on the traditional hat and coat and is ready to make himself presentable for a potential date.

What's remarkable is that the entire film is in Yiddish and the director doesn't speak a word of it (translators were used on set). Menashe is a simple story with some very keen observations about the Hasidic world. Director Weinstein nicely manages to humanize his characters spelling out both the internal and external conflicts of such a man as Menashe, who is saddled with important life decisions following the death of his spouse.
2017-11-22
Law Stifles Empathy
The price tag on fatherhood soars when tradition knocks on your door. Orthodoxy antagonizes the downtrodden, and fortune is monopolized by the most religious adherents. Yiddish mumbles separate father from son. Songs of lament ring through thin apartment walls. The rambunctious laughter of Menashe's child is limited to sidewalk engagements.

Employee of the month every month, Menashe is invaluable to his dictatorial boss at the borough's cultural specific grocery front. This distinction is not established by Menashe's work ethic, but rather by his attention to detail. With Hispanic co-workers, his Hasidic sensibilities garner favor with his Jewish supervisor. Menashe truly desires the best for the customers, and even if the man in charge cannot accommodate, the sentiment is appreciated with stern denials.

Approaching a year since the most bitter sweet loss of his self- contained life, Menashe is finally heeding his Rabbi's instructions, albeit halfheartedly. He submits to uncomfortable appointments in hopes of restoring a household. He is attempting to regain one person, by courting another.

His book speaks of man's inadequacy void of a woman. The Torah crafts a tale of interdependence, and his leadership point at passages to bolster his grief. The community cares for his son above him, and he cares for his son above all else. The walls of domesticity have tumbled, and he is the remaining survivor in Jericho.

A man cannot be expected to run a home and a livelihood, Menashe is reminded by his financially obese brother-in-law. The division in duties is divinely appointed, and Menashe's spiritual juggling can be blamed for his misfortune. His orthodoxy begins to slip. His coat and hat creep out of his closet, and he studies haphazardly.

What Menashe lacks in observance, he corrects with compassion. He is zealous but in an unconventional manner. He mimics his creator when he horses around with his only child. The abandon and whimsy of Menashe infects the boy, and together they create a fuller home than any other formal nuclear family. The uncompromising devotion to one's offspring might just rewrite thousands of years of tradition.
2017-09-25
A simple man whose life is a mess
Menashe (2017) was co-written and directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein. It was filmed in the Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The Hasidim are a subgroup within ultra-orthodox Judaism. So, all of the Hasidim are ultra- orthodox Jews, but not all ultra-orthodox Jews are Hasidim. The Hasidim are concentrated in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. There's a mix of many cultures in Williamsburg, but the Chasidim stand out because of their different dress and the fact that they speak Yiddish as their primary language. Another characteristic of the Hasidim--as shown clearly in the film--is the loyalty of each group to their own rabbi. The rabbi has the final say about major events like marriage, as well as many day-to-day practical matters.

Menashe (portrayed well by Menashe Lustig) is a basically decent guy whose life is a mess. He has a low-paying job as a stock clerk in a small Chasidic grocery store. He owes money. He is a widower, which by Hasidic custom means he can't have his son living with him unless he remarries.

He loves his son Fischel, brilliantly played by Yoel Falkowitz. Fischel is a good son, but he is beginning to recognize that Menashe fails at most of what he attempts.

In the film, Menashe is called a "schlimazel." That's a Yiddish word that describes a person who is chronically unlucky. This can often mean that the person is inept and incompetent, and that's why he's unlucky. It's a sad thing to be a schlimazel, and it's no fun being the son of a schlimazel either. The plot of the movie demonstrates those facts.

I enjoyed watching this film because it allows a glimpse into a very different culture from mainstream U.S. culture, and even from mainstream Jewish culture. It's almost an anthropological film, and yet it tells a clear, if unhappy story.

We saw this movie at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It has a terrible IMDb rating of 6.3. It's not a masterpiece, but it's much better than that.
2017-09-15
Providing a glimpse of the daily life within the Hasidic Jewish community
"Menashe" (2017 release; 82 min.) brings the story of a widower named Menashe and his 10 yr. old son Rieven. As the movie opens, it is clear we are in the Hasidic Jewish community in New York, as we see Menashe get to work in a grocery-type store. After work, he joins others in a testy discussion as to what the "real" rules of the Hasidic Jewish community are. It's not long, though, before we learn that Menashe has a son, but, per the Hasidic Jewish rules, he cannot live with Menashe and instead is being raised by the boy's uncle (the brother of Menashe's deceased wife) and his family. Menashe is desperate to see his boy more often, and to get him to return home... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this movie is not the first one about life in the Hasidic Jewish (or Orthodox Jewish) community, yet it is striking once again for someone like myself (a con-Jewish outsider) how incredibly restrictive life is within the confines of that community. The rabbi decides everything. When Menashe appeals to the Rabbi to let his son live with him, the Rabbi responds: "the Torah requires three things: a nice wife, a nice house, and nice dishes", without the slightest of hesitation or irony, wow... The movie reminds of a couple of other movies: "Gett" (the movie about divorce in the Orthodox Jewish community), and... "Kramer vs. Kramer", yes the 1979 classic, where Dustin Hoffman raises his 6 year old boy. Several scenes from "Menashe" are eerily similar. Beware: for whatever reason, the production team of "Menashe" decided to film many scenes in an extreme close-up angle, which at time is quite disorienting (perhaps that was the very intent of it).

"Menashe" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival to immediate critical acclaim, and recently opened at my local-art house theater here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was heavily attended. somewhat to my surprise, but this is welcome news. Indeed, if you are in the mood to get a glimpse of what life in the Hasidic Jewish community is really like (almost documentary-like), you will be well-served with this movie, and I'd readily recommend you seek this out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
2017-09-13
a man trying to get normalcy in his life
a widower in an ultra orthodox community in Brooklyn has lost his son to his late wife's family, who feel he cannot raise the boy properly on his own. the rabbi suggests he get remarried, but that's not working for menashe. menashe desperately wants his son back, but realizes, finally, the boy is better off with the in laws. although I am not familiar with orthodox jews, it really didn't matter here. this is a universal story. it's in Yiddish, with a lot of English thrown in. a movie for movie folks. it feels real.
2017-08-16
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