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You've probably never heard of Joseph Cassuto, but by the end of this film you may think that he was the most elusive, fascinating and baffling man to have ever lived. Cassuto is filmmaker Alan Berliner's maternal grandfather, a Palestinian Jew who was a cotton buyer for the Japanese in Egypt prior to World War II. With Hitler's armies just miles away from Alexandria, Cassuto's family is split in half. They reunite in New York after the war, but Cassuto is restless there. He moves to Japan to spend eleven months of the year, virtually abandoning his wife and children in the United States while he pursues his business interests and a lifelong love affair with Japanese culture. Seventeen years after his death, his grandson has constructed a poetic and emotional jigsaw puzzle out of the voluminous memorabilia of his grandfather's life story. What emerges is a curious legacy — admiration and love from Cassuto's Japanese business associates; resentment from his family. Depending on who you ask, Cassuto was either a romantic adventurer or a shirker of family responsibility; a man at the center of historic events or a nobody.
Intimate Stranger," says Berliner, "walks the fine line between sorting the dirty family laundry and polishing the precious family jewel." Family members try to make sense of it all in this witty, candid and cinematically inventive documentary biography.
"Funny, probing and so wholly original in both style and
substance as to seem completely without precedent...
brilliant, one-of-a-kind film...the remarkable life of a
seemingly average man presents a figure as complicated and
enthralling as any fictional character in recent memory...
intoxicating montage...expertly pieced together...
a spectacular high-wire feat by a fledgling master."
— THE WASHINGTON POST
"Compellingly eccentric...powerful, bittersweet...
a rich, tumultuous portrait of family life..."
— THE NEW YORK TIMES
"A stunningly imaginative hand-made one-man film,
Intimate Stranger combines biography,
personal inquiry, a search for roots, 20th century
history, family portraiture and cultural anthropology
in a work of unusual resonance."
"Including the conflicting assessments of devotion
and enmity of the central character transforms
Intimate Stranger into a poignant depiction
of universal family dynamics...."
— THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"A terrific exercise in family exorcism.
Filmmaker Alan Berliner has createdan affectionate, witty
and ineffably moving portrait...heartbreakingly universal."
— THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION
"Intimate Stranger is documentary
storytelling of a very high order."
— SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
"...one of the most remarkable nonfiction films around."
USA FILM FESTIVAL
Other films by Alan Berliner: