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. (1 hour)