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I found out about this movie in a fairly unusual way: the summer camp used as a location for filming was owned by close relatives and I watched the video while visiting my relatives at the actual location where as a 10-year-old I'd been a camper myself, only a few years after the era portrayed in this film.
The actual camp, Camp Mohawk, was nothing like the Orthodox Jewish camp portrayed in the film. It was not a religious camp and discipline was merely the bare minimum necessary to keep campers from drowning each other in the lake. It was pretty casual.
The summer camp shown in Camp Stories, on the other hand -- if writer/director Biegel is to be believed -- was more akin to eight weeks spent at a Young Communist camp in the Soviet Union: a maniacal head counsellor on a power trip, an Orthodox Jewish camp owner who thinks rock and roll is obscene, religious rules that kept boys and girls on opposite sides on the camp, the slightest infraction punished by dangerous physical torture -- and a sign posted near the mail room promising campers that any mail complaining to their parents would be censored.
As I said, the actual summer camp this movie was filmed at was nothing like that.
But as a small independent film, this picture wasn't bad. I thought the acting was good throughout, the writing and directing more than competent, and good use was made of the locations.
The story is a not-untypical story of minor teenage rebellion against the artificially repressive sexual code of the 1950's -- or at least how the Baby Boom campers remember it. It's a boy-meets-girl-on-the-other-side-of-the-tracks story, a sexy-wife-cheats-on-her-anal-retentive husband story, and a religious-culture-meets-the-outside-world story. The Orthodox Jews portrayed in this movie are only one step less out-of-touch than the Amish portrayed in Witness -- in other words, clueless. And, of course, any healthy teenager without salt peter in the food is not going to take to this sort of religious repression without a fight.
Technically -- for writing, acting, directing, cinematography, editing, and musical score -- I gave this movie an 8 out of 10. It definitely should find, even at this late date, distribution on video and DVD, and deserves to be seen on the premium cable networks and late-night TV. It's a natural for the Independent Film Channel and the Sundance Channel. With a cast including Jerry Stiller, Elliot Gould, Talia Shire, Paul Sand, and Jason Biggs, it's surprising to me that this picture hasn't found a home.
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