Watching: Honoring Joan Micklin Silver

Two great films by the late indie trailblazer.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.

Happy Watching


Your weekday double feature: Joan Micklin Silver

John Heard and Lindsay Crouse in a scene from “Between the Lines.”Midwest Films, via The Criterion Channel

‘Between the Lines’ and ‘Crossing Delancey’

The director Joan Micklin Silver, who died on New Year’s Eve at age 85, made her feature debut in 1975 with the hit movie “Hester Street,” the sort of low-budget indie sensation that kickstarts a brilliant career. But the film did not do for her what “She’s Gotta Have It” would do for Spike Lee or “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” for Steven Soderbergh. She was both a trailblazer and an example of the obstacles faced by women directors, with a filmography full of fits and starts that reflect both her immense talent and her difficulties gaining a foothold in Hollywood.


After the success of “Hester Street” failed to lead to major studio interest, Silver went the indie route again with the 1977 slice-of-life movie “Between the Lines,” a tough-minded but affectionate look inside the newsroom of an alternative weekly paper in Boston. Streaming now on the Criterion Channel, the film includes lot of familiar alt-weekly fretting over slumping ad sales and potentially odious new ownership. But Silver, who wrote for the Village Voice, cares more about newsroom culture than any larger plot machinations. With an extraordinary eye for young talent — Jeff Goldblum, Bruno Kirby, Lindsay Crouse, Joe Morton and Marilu Henner are among the familiar faces — Silver details a hornet’s nest of misogyny and interoffice romance and reserves great affection for the ideals, eccentricities and esprit de corps of shoestring journalists.

A little over a decade later, Silver’s best known film, “Crossing Delancey,” squared the particulars of Jewish culture and neighborhoods in New York City with the requirements of a Hollywood rom-com. Amy Irving stars as a bookstore clerk whose affections are torn between a cosmopolitan author (Jeroen Krabbé) and a humble pickle-maker (Peter Riegert) — one man representing her ambition to be part of the literary set, the other the traditions of her past. Irving is a luminous and complicated romantic hero, and Silver’s deep understanding of Jewish family life gives the film a distinct flavor. (Not many rom-coms before or since have had a scene at a bris.) — Scott Tobias

Stream “Between the Lines” on the Criterion Channel. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV and Google Play.

Rent “Crossing Delancey” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


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