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Inaugural Lowell Milken Lecture in Jewish Music
May 3, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Michael Beckerman (NYU) will deliver the first annual Lowell Milken Lecture in Jewish music, entitled “Hugo Haas’ Big Secret–Hiding Pavel and Hiding the Holocaust.”
Hugo Haas was a leading figure in Czech interwar theater and film. Fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930’s he ended up first as a character actor in Hollywood and then as the producer, writer and star in his own B-movie studio. Hugo’s films have usually been dismissed as mediocre, with some notable critical exceptions–Martin Scorses, for example, revered them, and as we know from our own historical moment, the notion of what is important can change quickly. Whether one speaks in terms of their artistic value or not, Haas’ films are buttressed by a series of secrets involving visual and sonic images of his dead brother Pavel, a brilliant composer and Janáček student who was murdered in Auschwitz, and the Holocaust itself, which for the most part goes unmentioned, even in those films where its existence is central. This lecture looks at several scenes from Haas’ films, Pickup, Girl on the Bridge and Strange Fascination where these hidden forces shape the action, posing challenges for us about just what it means to know or understand any artwork, and exploring the implication of moments that are fully intelligible to only one person.