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6/10
Missing the fire in the nucleus
1 May 2020
I don't recall whether I saw this movie when it came out thirty years ago. if I did, it bored me. But I watched it just now because its reputation has lasted or even grown. I also watched another movie of Avraham Heffner's twice-- "But Where is Daniel Wax?"-- because it was held in such high regard and I felt I might have missed something the first time.

I'm American-born, and in the case of "Daniel Wax," the first time I couldn't get past my irritation at the plot element that portrays an Israeli singer having come to America and become a big success as if the Americans were so easy to impress. Oddly, much the same element is present in "Laura Adler": An American movie producer is struck by the talent of an Israeli actress and is eager to cast her even though she's performing in Yiddish and the producer can't understand a word. Worse yet, whereas in "Daniel Wax" we do get to see the singer do his stuff, and he's not bad, in "Laura Adler" the actress is seen in a mediocre play that doesn't exactly give her the chance to shine.

Everyone buzzes around Laura Adler like moths around a flame, but what's missing is the flame in the center of the central character. We don't get the impression of a grande dame of the Yiddish theater. The Yiddish theater itself, on the other hand, is (as far as I can tell) portrayed believably and affectionately, and it's a fairly big part of the movie. The plot works well once it gets going, although I had problems at the beginning figuring out who is who-- maybe partly because time has not been kind to the print. A curtain of shadow covered a lot.

If the craze for remakes ever hits Israel, I'd be pleased to see a remake of "Laura Adler" with Laura's talent, which has to be believed in order to drive the story, emphasized more credibly.
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Criminal (2016)
6/10
Arbitrariness is the big problem
29 April 2020
In this tale of a sort of virtual memory transplant from brain to brain, the main character steps into a situation that's a little more complicated than we're accustomed to. It's the good guys versus the bad guys but with a renegade bad guy in addition who's just as dangerous as anyone else. I'm not sure why that complication was necessary, but it's not the picture's big problem. The big problem is that the scriptwriters have decided the memory transplant is kind of imperfect, maybe even kind of temporary, and they manipulate the degree of its effectiveness in order to help drive the plot. Since there's no such thing as a brain-to-brain memory transplant, there's no way to disguise the ups and downs of the result as anything realistic rather than arbitrary manipulation of the plot and thus of the audience. As others have said, though, the film is watchable thanks to its other qualities.
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Moments (1979)
7/10
Nuvelle vague, and a little Israeli nostalgia
26 April 2020
This is Michal Bat-Adam's first movie as a writer-director. It's forty years old at this writing, and some of the scenes are by now unintentionally nostalgic for those of us who remember Israel from back then. Other scenes are intentionally picturesque, filmed in Jerusalem. The plot is somewhat minimalist and the scenes have a casual nouvelle-vague aesthetic of ostensibly throwaway naturalism that can be charming but can also verge on pretentiousness. If I understand correctly, it's about a woman who has trouble committing herself to making a choice and following through on it. Maybe trouble growing up. Bat-Adam (also starring) plays a writer who is trying to make progress on her book. Nothing, really, for the audience to care much about as such (for whatever unstated reason, she has zero financial worries) except that she comes to the screen with one of the most photogenic faces that the camera ever saw. She meets a tourist who functions as a sort of straight man for her self-revelations, but the tourist is a woman and the dynamic between them quickly implies she may not be entirely straight. The title "Moments" rather prefigures the rest of Bat-Adam's work as a filmmaker; her movies do tend each to be a collection of intriguing moments rather than a gripping continuous story with strong momentum. This one attracted more than a little attention and set her career rolling.
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Youth (2013)
4/10
Doesn't take off
24 April 2020
"Youth" begins well and ends well. The filmmakers had the smart idea that a caper movie doesn't necessarily need to include a whole section about the planning of the caper. Why not just let the audience find out about it as it happens? Cool. In this case, a couple of brothers carry out a kidnapping, and they're played by real brothers. Also cool, except-- this may be a strange complaint-- they look a little too much alike. It helps that one of them is often in military uniform, but still we don't get as much of a sense of their separate personalities as the filmmakers wanted. And the sense of any arc that they and their victim go through is also too faint. Their difference in class could also have been better portrayed as an element of the dynamic. (As is, it revolves almost entirely around the quality of her mobile phone.) But the script regains its elegance at the end with a worthy twist and a touch of unfinished business.
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Mountain (2015)
8/10
More than anything else, lovely to look at
5 April 2020
The story here is kind of slight, and worst of all it's possible-- particularly on the small screen and in the absence of an explanatory subtitle-- to miss an important incident in the final minutes. But it's a wonderful movie to watch for the play of geometry and for the colors (although at least in the print I saw, several times it seemed as if a strong light off screen was turning on or off). One reviewer mentions the movie's "frankness about its protagonist's un-Hollywood body" as if many people would see it as a minus, but the light and shadow on the musculature of her naked back in one scene make for a marvelous dynamic element in the frame's strongly vertical composition.

If the movie had any kind of commercial release in Israel at all, I guess it didn't last more than a week or two. I saw "The Mountain" in a special web-based showing sponsored by a cinematheque that was closed on account of the coronavirus. The lead actress, Shani Klein, is very well liked in Israel and for me she certainly helped to carry the picture, but it's certainly not a natural crowd-pleaser in terms of laughs or thrills or suspense.
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9/10
Total immersion
9 March 2020
Yaron Shani was co-director of Ajami, a film that combined a number of mostly related stories and that used nonprofessional actors. This time, it's not merely one movie with related stories but three related movies which by Shani's count contain a total of six stories. Surprisingly, he says you should not watch all three movies in a binge. They're somewhat taxing and he knows it. They're supposed to be. Shani says that when people aren't sufficiently taxed, they sink into depression; and he suspects that depression will be the next great plague in society.

So the movies depict difficult situations, and the nonprofessional actors knock themselves out improvising their way through. No word-for-word scripting, no repeat takes. And "Reborn" earned a shared best-actress award for its three lead players. How does Shani manage to elicit such performances? He immerses the actors in the roles for a long time before filming, and he claims that with such immersion "anyone can do it." After all, everyone can become emotionally invested in sports, and that's just as artificial. And everyone behaves differently in different situations.

From among the three films, this is the second one I caught. I caught it at a screening that was followed by a talk with Shani (and that's where I'm quoting him from). I think the first I saw, "Chained," was simpler. It more obviously had a main story developing in a clear direction. In "Reborn," if you're looking for a central protagonist to identify with and a central problem the protagonist is addressing, there may be a bit of frustration. We do see the central characters from "Chained" reappearing, and-- having seen that film and being, maybe, less than the ideal audience-- I found my interest disproportionately drawn to them. I also felt a touch of inconsistency between the presentation of the male lead of "Chained" there and in "Reborn." Maybe it's intentional; a question of point of view. Or maybe it's merely that, as Shani said, people don't always behave the same.

I think it was George Obadiah, a director of sentimental movies, who said "While I'm filming a scene, I'm crying. When I cry, the actors cry. When the actors cry, the audience cries. When the audience cries, the box office smiles." In the case of Love Trilogy, when the actors are totally immersed in the movie, the audience is totally immersed in the movie. What it means for the box office, I'm not sure, but it's impossible not to hope Shani and his trilogy achieve great success with their accomplishment.
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8/10
A sort of self-defeating beauty
3 March 2020
Nimrod Eldar is credited as this movie's writer, director, sound designer, and editor. All four of them are very talented, but I wouldn't say they work perfectly together.

Eldar's script is a tense, naturalistic, well-acted family drama focused on a widower and his daughter. The father is a zoo veterinarian, and the first line of the movie is spoken by the unmistakable Yigal Horowitz, a real veterinarian who is famous for treating wild animals in a program in Israeli educational TV. His presence seems like a wink at the audience and generates an expectation of light-heartedness that the script certainly doesn't fulfill. Similarly, the man-mountain Eran Naim, playing a policeman, is sort of a distracting cross-over from the films of Yaron Shani, where he's repeatedly played essentially the same role.

The patient at the zoo is a beautiful leopard. Eldar the director also makes a point of presenting a beautiiful amusement-park ride and some beautiful shots of the Dead Sea area. There are even some facial close-ups that are notable for their artistry. But instead of reinforcing the drama or providing welcome relief from the tension, these visuals call attention to themselves at the expense of audience involvement. The same might be said for some of the long pauses that Eldar the editor has inserted, while Eldar the sound designer has wisely eschewed background music almost entirely but occasionally overdone the sound effects.

I certainly recommend the movie, but overall, it could be that Eldar the director didn't sufficiently trust Eldar the screenwriter and tried to load more ornamentation onto the script than it would bear. It certainly is a bleak story, most of the time, but a director's got to play the hand he's been dealt, even if the game is solitaire.
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Malkot (2018– )
8/10
Good characters. Plot has its faults.
12 February 2020
Lead actress Rita, better known as a singer, has always been presented as larger than life, and some people considered that because she set the tone for this series, the whole thing was over the top. I liked it, though. A large cast of characters, well differentiated, and the audience is made to care for the fate of many of them. Some of the script is improbable, but for the most part I'd say the actors were able to sell it. There were strong motivations that the audience can empathize with, and underlying the whole story is a sad recurring question of what happens when men cannot fulfill their traditional role because they have been pushed aside or because, hard as they try, they can't figure out how to make it work.
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5/10
Just not enough content
11 February 2020
The violently possessive and jealous man and the abused but dependent woman are a fact of life and have been explored before. In fact, it seems only yesterday that Roy Miller, who plays the possessive man here, was playing the same role in the Israeli TV series Malkot. This time it's a true story, and it includes a murder that was a big deal at the time, so there's a certain audience that can be counted on to watch. The woman in the affair was a model and TV star, the script makes much of her beauty and magnetism, and it would be inaccurate to remark that the actress playing her doesn't project beauty and magnetism, but we're used to those qualities, TV being what it is, and I can't say that by TV standards this movie managed to make the actress playing her look special. Nor do we get much insight into the character's personality. These relationships end badly, and we see the set-up and the unfolding and the conclusion, but the movie doesn't contain any content that gives us a sense of learning.
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9/10
Ram Loewy, one of the best filmmakers you've never heard of
24 January 2020
Ram Loewy works mostly for Israeli television, so his works aren't much seen even in the tiny niche that Israeli films occupy internationally. To the extent that they are shown outside Israel, it may be largely because of their political message, which tends to be harshly against the Israeli establishment.

The Dead of Jaffa is an exception in that it is intended for theatrical showing. It certainly deserves a spot on the big screen; there is some very nice photography. The message is still anti-establishment, but it explicitly targets imperialism as represented by the British in 20th-century Palestine; it's up to the viewer to decide how that criticism may be projected onto the present.

What is obvious in the script is that everyone is manipulated by their past-- by those who came before them, living or dead, and by their own commitments. The one who seems most independent is the wife of the protagonist, and it's made clear that the reason she can seize the freedom to do what she wants is that she's not quite right in the head.

A major subplot concerns the filming of a movie, and the director of the movie-within-a-movie makes the point that on screen you don't have to act, you just have to be yourself. Accordingly, nobody in The Dead of Jaffa is chewing the scenery-- and it's just as well, because there are some child actors and their modest abilities work perfectly well with the relatively toned-down acting of the professionals. There is a rebellious youngster, but visually he looks more uncooperative than wildly rebellious. There is a glamorous movie star, but visually she looks more, let us say, attractive than wildly glamorous. The understated style helps draw the viewer into the movie, and the movie repays the effort of attention.

Ram Loewy has been a filmmaker for 50 years, he hasn't been wasting his time, and the fruits of his experience are apparent. Maybe with this theatrical release, and with the new digital avenues for reaching the international public, he will now receive a wider international audience.
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6/10
Well-meaning but improbable
14 January 2020
Farce, satire, and drama mix a little uncomfortably in this TV-style production. It is impossible (for Israeli audiences at least) not to like stars Dubi Gal and Nitza Shaul, but they're put through a sequence of coincidences and too-briskly-solved misunderstandings that jerk the movie along without letting it ever settle down. Uri Banai has an interesting role as a man who doesn't understand he has a problem with his temper, but the justification for his character's presence in the movie is skimpy, as is the justification for some of the gags. There is a certain element of satire directed at the civil service, and it's apt and successful, but it's far from the fore and also fails to tie in very closely to the main story. The main story seems to present Dubi Gal as a husband who is very involved with the kids and knows how to cook, thus breaking a masculine stereotype while his wife, for her part, has a job with the military; and then it seems to say that in fact he's not even very masculine biologically but that's okay too... not the message that the audience would expect. (We're more accustomed to being shown, more simply, that you can love the kids, cook, and be a he-man.)
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9/10
A tragedy that looks like a documentary
7 January 2020
If I understand correctly from IMDB, this film ends the plot of a trilogy but was the middle film in order of release. I haven't seen the other two, but I think Chained stands perfectly well on its own-- except maybe an epilogue, a few seconds long, that I guess refers back to film no. 1.

The protagonist is a tragic figure. He's a man who thinks fast and brooks no nonsense, which makes him good at his job-- he's a policeman-- but brings him into constant conflict with a world that's swarming with too much nonsense for one man to handle.

Much of the film has a documentary feel. The lead actors, although they carry the movie as well as any glamorous star could, do not have the charming looks that we audiences are accustomed to. The camera dogs them in intrusive close-up, and as the actors speak their dialogue they do not make a point of conveniently speaking in turn but often overlap.

It's a movie that has more pity and terror in it than laughs and warmth. I don't predict great commercial success, but it's won a number of awards and I certainly wouldn't call them undeserved.
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8/10
A fable, taut but a little detached
12 November 2019
The god of the piano is a false god, and we meet a family that is something of a fanatical cult in the service of that god-- musicians to whom little else is important. Anat, the protagonist, is a pianist whose hands are prematurely unsteady. She doesn't always do the right thing, but we can sympathize with her because of her plight, because she's pretty, and because the other characters (other than her son) are all rather peripheral. Anat's husband goes away on business, but exactly what does he do for a living? Did I miss it, or does it go unmentioned?

There isn't much of a sense of place. Many other Israeli movies are explicitly and colorfully set in a particular city. Maybe what motivates them is municipal funding or assistance, but still I think a story that is moored to a specific setting is usually the more interesting for it.

On the other hand, maybe the vagueness of the setting is intentional. Anat doesn't care very much where she is, or who she's with. At least for most of the film, she has no friend to talk to, so that the scriptwriter, who is also the director and editor, sets himself the challenge of explaining her to us (to the extent that he wants to) without relying on her to explain herself. The movie makes the point that the only person she can confide in is deaf.

So the movie proceeds with something of the spareness of a fable, and with something of the inevitability, but also with something of the detachment. I think the only jarring moment in the movie is when Anat has occasion to weep in disappointment. She gives off sharp cries that sound more like physical pain and that, by their strangeness, take us out of the scene rather than drawing us in. Nonetheless, the performance was good for a Best Actress award, so I shouldn't be too quick with even a small complaint.
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6/10
Important issue addressed, characters better acted than written
3 November 2019
Human infertility is a growing problem (I blame the food, but what do I know?), and it's a good idea to have a movie that will raise awareness and sensitivity about the attendant suffering. This movie touches the bases, but at times it seems too undisguisedly didactic.

The tension arising from infertility causes spats between the couple, but it's left up to the audience to keep liking the characters through thick and thin while the script doesn't provide all the necessary support. The characters aren't shown displaying regret or introspection after bad behavior, and so (despite fine acting) the audience may stop identifying with the characters.
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Forgiveness (2019)
7/10
Neo-burekas
4 October 2019
MECHILA follows the comical misadventures of a couple of thieves, reformed or at least semi-reformed, are trying to recover their stash of loot. One of the thieves is a bumbler, but when he makes a mistake it's always the other thief who suffers for it.

This is a neo-burekas movie. It could have been made forty years ago with Yehuda Barkan and Gabi Amrani, but it would have had less explicit violence and a lot less respect for its female characters. Here, the women are included not as decorations but as contributors to the theme of "mechila"-- forgiveness-- and the theme does come across strongly from behind the comedy.
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Red Fields (2019)
10/10
One of a kind
4 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I might say this is the best movie to come out of Israel so far, but that wouldn't be fair because MAMY can't be compared to other Israeli films. The most similar film is TOMMY, which is echoed in a number of aspects. War brings disaster to a young couple, someone becomes disabled, there is a sexual threat, we meet a powerful and evil woman, there is intervention from a doctor, and the patient becomes a famous leader but is ultimately rejected by the public. And it's a pop opera. But it's a very Israeli opera, dealing with the country's underprivileged, and for this movie the music has been adapted to a more Middle Eastern style than the stage version used. As a rock opera, the stage version had a little musical levity. The movie version doesn't; the music is compelling but consistently mournful although the story veers into satire once the characters have sunk to rock bottom.

As an opera, the movie can take advantage of an exemption from the demands of realism. It hops over plot holes and lets its budget constraints show freely. It's swept along largely by the singing and acting of Neta Elkayam in her first movie. Like Mazi Cohen, who played the part on stage, Elkayam does not have a conventionally pretty face. That she isn't pretty, and that she isn't well known, helps produce a feeling of honesty that sells the story despite the artificiality of the genre. And you can't help believing her when she sings, against the arrangements by Dudu Tassa (who also serves as narrator) and Nir Maimon.
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6/10
A comic fable that makes the low budget work
1 October 2019
I don't know what the production history of this movie is, but at the end of the credits, it displays the logo of Tel Aviv University and credits a fund that supports student film projects. So I guess that either it's a student film, or it's a student film that's had an upgrade. No one would mistake it for a production with the average commercial budget (even by Israeli standards). But it's a sci-fi comedy, and so self-awareness goes with the territory and there's nothing disastrous about the low-budget look. In fact, working with what he had, the art director even achieved an award nomination from the Israel Film Academy. And the artificial quality of the movie is also in keeping with its nature as a fable. It's all about the balance between assertiveness and sensitivity, which is an important issue in Israel where for fifty years the society has snidely referred to itself as having an army that's "yorim uvochim" ("bombing and blubbering," is it were). We're presented with robots that have feelings and with humans who don't. The metaphysical question that we can't avoid considering, the question of whether a robot can have feelings or can only go through the motions of having feelings, is touched on but not explored. A couple of well-known actors are featured-- Tzahi Grad in a typical role as a gruff authority figure, and Dror Keren in an extremely atypical role as a Russian immigrant. There are two pretty actresses in major roles who I wasn't always able to tell apart. And the lead actor, as the sensitive robot, was more convincing than you might expect, considering the difficulty of acting both robotic and soft-hearted at the same time.
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Incitement (2019)
7/10
Blames the religious community
18 September 2019
Like the Kennedy assassinations, the Rabin assassination is surrounded by a lot of unanswered questions. But this dramatization adheres closely to the accepted theory of Yigal Amir as lone killer. The English-language title, "Incitement" (unlike the Hebrew title) hints at the tirelessly repeated accusations that the political right in general, and Bibi Netanyahu in particular, stirred up the deadly animus against Rabin. However, the movie makes a point of accurately showing a couple of incidents that the accusations commonly distort. It shows that a particularly nasty poster of Rabin (dressing him in an SS uniform) was distributed by agent provocateur Avishai Raviv and wasn't really a poster at all but a handbill; and it shows that a coffin carried in an anti-Oslo demonstration was not a symbol threatening Rabin with death but a symbol lamenting the supposed death of Zionism. Where the depiction does go overboard, I'd say, is in emphasizing the tacit support by the religious establishment for an attack on Rabin. Bar-Ilan University, which has a Jewish religious atmosphere but also has secular Jewish students and even Arab students, is portrayed as entirely religious and plastered with anti-Rabin posters on every wall. Rabbis are shown one after another stopping short of disapproval with respect to Amir's intention to kill Rabin.

Despite not spending important time bashing Bibi, the movie does bother at the end to grumble that when he took office, his inaugural speech didn't mention Rabin.

But how is the movie as a movie? you ask. Apart from stating its point of view on the murder (and being released in Israel half a week before an election), it doesn't seem to have much of a message. As an exercise in recreating episodes that are only 25 years old and well remembered from the news, it works well. It blends recreations with authentic footage elegantly. The filmmakers did not employ well-known actors who would have made disbelief difficult to suspend, but the actors handle their parts well. The music is spare and appropriately ominous. But if the movie breaks forth from its narrow focus to imply any larger statement about the human condition, I missed it.
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Cup Final (1991)
6/10
Eran Riklis got off to a good start here
18 September 2019
A man wanders outside his country, befriends people who are ostensibly unlike the people at home, has some adventures and some heart-to-heart conversations, and comes back having learned a lesson. The same narrative framework recurs again and again in the films of Israeli director Eran Riklis, along with a propensity to sympathetically present the Arab point of view. "Cup Final" is an early example, focusing on an Israeli soldier who is alone behind enemy lines in Lebanon, and it was very popular at the time although Riklis has gone over similar material since with more artistic success-- in "Zaytoun," for example. "Cup Final" seems to use the entire pantheon of well-known Israeli Arab movie actors, and they acquit themselves well although the script is sketchy. Some are still familiar faces more than 25 years later. The star, though-- Moshe Ivgy-- was eventually knocked off his pedestal by the local me-too movement.
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8/10
If you know who Yossi Banai was, it helps
12 September 2019
Kobi Farag and Morris Ben-Mayor collaborated previously on "Photo Farag," the story of the family business that Kobi spun away from. To appreciate "Photo Farag," which is a fine movie, you don't need to know a thing about the family or about the photography business. I'm not sure how well you can appreciate "LeHaeer et Yossi" from the same uninitiated perspective. At the Herzliya Cinematheque, Farag was asked about the point and replied calmly that this documentary will find its audience. Yossi Banai was a great entertainer, but this certainly isn't a "Greatest Hits" movie. Farag explains that they wanted to concentrate on Banai as a person. Although Farag says that time is another theme for the audience to pay attention to, the movie takes audio from Banai's interviews and performances, and video from various points in his career, and often puts them together to make a statement as if the passage of time were immaterial. The audio brings various philosophical statements from Banai and it traces his career (although purposely not in strict chronological fashion) from wannabee to superstar, but as a "memoir" (which is what Ben-Mayor calls it) does it hold enough intrinsic interest if it doesn't bring back your own memories of Banai's performances? If you don't recognize his famous brothers as they appear briefly on the screen, or the beloved Rivka Michaeli who was his stage partner, or the wildly popular Gashashim comedy act that he wrote for? I admire the effort and skill that the moviemakers put in, and the film does create a graceful arc despite being made of umpteen archival bits and pieces, so I'd like to think it does hold interest.
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9/10
No let-down here
9 September 2019
This is a movie about a man whose friends let him down, and the writer-director-star of it is a man who apparently had the opposite experience. Some top actors and other movie professionals, including fellow directors, came on board to help earn this movie 11 nominations for the Ophir (the Israeli Oscar). But the movie is autobiographical in that Gur Bentwich really did have the experiences-- depicted here-- of turning out a movie that couldn't find a good sized audience and of walking around with a heart attack he wasn't properly aware of. Potentially depressing material, but it's kept sprightly as the movie switches from encounter to encounter and from place to place (including one place that is not of this world).
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Unseen (2019)
8/10
Maybe it's just a prequel, but it's a good one and it can stand alone
30 May 2019
One of my favorite movie lines is from "Les violons du bal." The protagonist is a filmmaker determined to make a movie about his childhood. Someone asks "But why is your childhood so important to you?" and the protagonist says "Because it's mine."

Matan Yair's attitude is similar. He plays himself in the movie, he wants us to see his relationship with his father (who also plays himself), and he wants us to see not his childhood but his work with disadvantaged students (who mostly play themselves)-- although the movie is scripted and not a strict documentary by any means. The question is whether he manages to make it all interesting to the audience, and the answer is yes, partly because when a teacher walks into a room of problem students you never know what's going to happen and whether he can handle it.

The story goes that while Yair was making this extremely low-budget and personal movie, another movie idea of his got funded-- rather a similar idea-- and it turned into the movie "Scaffolding." "Scaffolding" is a more traditional movie, and a bit easier to watch, because it focuses strongly on one particular student of his (a charismatic fellow who plays himself) and it uses that student, instead of Yair, in the subplot about the father-son relationship. Although "Scaffolding" replaces Yair with an actor, you can see that it was filmed in the same school and the students present the same challenge to the teacher.

Back to "Bagrut." It was finished and released after "Scaffolding," and in a way it looks like a less developed version of the same movie. But it turns out different, and it establishes its own raison d'etre.

The title refers to the Israeli examination that Israeli kids take at the end of high school (if they're even good enough to take it), but it also means "maturity," which is what everyone in the movie is reaching for. In English, the title is "Unseen." The teacher is working with kids who go largely unseen in society, and he's largely unseen himself-- even by them. The surface-level justification of the English-language title is that apparently it's the name of a poetry unit that the kids need to study. But I didn't find that point particularly clear. Why "Unseen" in English when the poetry is in Hebrew?
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Hallelujah (2003 TV Movie)
8/10
Relatively harmless farce
26 May 2019
This is a short, seriously dated, but relatively harmless farce with some serious improbability here and there but with some praiseworthy touches too. The hero has to overcome not only external obstacles but also an inner choice regarding his direction in life. The comic villain too turns out to have a choice of his own to make, and he makes it with a newly acquired self-understanding. Oddly, the director of this 2003 comedy revolving around Eurovision and the Israeli army has gone on to make a 2019 comedy revolving around Eurovision and terrorists, "Douze Points." I haven't seen that one, but I'm a little more inclined to consider watching it on the basis of "Hallelujah."
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7/10
A slightly serious variation on a reliable formula
21 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The publicity guy who decided to call this movie "Mr. Predictable" in English was leading with his chin. It's a movie about encountering that stock character called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl-- the one who is always eager for adventure and takes you out of your shell and shows you what fun is. "Live for today" is normally the lesson of such movies, and if you've seen one (like "Something Wild" with Melanie Griffith or "Who's That Girl" with Madonna) you'll find a good dose of predictability in the others. But in this instance, in comparison with some, the scriptwriter has kept his feet, if not on the ground, maybe at least little closer to it. The protagonist has a son, he'd like to teach that son how to be gentlemanly but not a chump, and he's not sure himself where the balance lies. The son, and the protagonist's parents for that matter, are flawed in ways that aren't intended to be completely funny. The movie winds up in a middle ground that certainly isn't entirely comic but does prioritize comedy much of the time and sort of clings to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype as an reliable formula.
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Echo (2018)
7/10
Study of a tragic character. Not all women like it.
21 May 2019
This is largely a character study of a man who works hard at doing the right thing and doesn't have particularly sensitive emotional antennae. Isn't doing the right thing more important, and shouldn't it be sufficient? The proposition (and how it fails to work out) is enough to carry a movie, and along with first-rate acting it does carry this one; but there are a few flaws too. As the IMDB storyline says, "Avner suspects his wife Ella of having an affair. Secretly recording her telephone conversations, he turns into a spy in his own home, listening to them again and again." The movie returns repeatedly to conversations he's already listened to, and it advances the arc by letting us hear a little more of what Avner has already heard. An intrusively artificial device. A better script would have perched us on Avner's shoulder and let us learn details as he learns them, rather than informing us later of what he learned earlier. Another problem, perhaps relevant only in Israel, is the casting of Guri Alfi. It's not his first role in a dramatic movie, but still he's much more familiar as a TV wisecracker, and there is near-zero room for lightheartedness in the character he plays here. I think that someone known for serious roles, or not even well known at all, would have been better accepted by the audience (regardless of the quality of the performance).

My wife came with me to see this movie although a girlfriend of hers had warned that it's not very good. My wife didn't like it either. I guess it's a movie for men. In a chick flick, after all, it's the women whose motivations the audience is supposed to identify with while the men's motivations are simplistically obvious. unfathomable, or just not worth thinking about. In "Echo," the woman's motivations function as part of the mystery.
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