What to Do When the World is Coming to an End? Laugh a Lot
Just when it seems like things cannot get much darker in the Middle East and around the world, along comes Netflix to the rescue. The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob arrived in my mailbox several days ago.
This French/Italian production from 1973 is a cure for both personal and political strife. It is full of slaptstick comedy and mistaken identity along the lines of the Pink Panther movies.
The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob is about a rather prejudiced Frenchman, Victor Pivert, who, through a series of accidents, finds himself on the run from some surly and, in his view, swarthy Arab revolutionaries, while also being chased by the police. Pivert, played hilariously by rubber-faced actor Luis de Funes, must impersonate an orthodox Rabbi and accept the assistance of his Jewish chauffeur to hide from the assassins, while simultaneously explaining to his very jealous wife why he is late for their daughther's wedding.
The result is not only a series of slapstick adventures, including a romp through a chewing gum factory, but also a meditation on the irrational ignorance and fear that underlies racial and ethnic prejudice. Without giving away too much, by the end of the movie, deep understanding and bonds develop across racial and ethnic lines: Arab and Jewish, Jewish and Catholic, Arab and Arab, etc. The humanity the characters share far outweighs their petty tribal and religious differences.
The side-splitting comedy and message of tolerance contained in The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob are just what is needed given today's world events. Maybe I can send copies of this movie to Washington, Baghdad, Darfur, and that border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.