Alila

After making two powerful period films dealing with Israel's turbulent past, filmmaker Amos Gitai returned to dramatic comedy with a film that could sit comfortably beside his "City Trilogy" — DEVARIM (1998), YOM YOM (1999) and KADOSH (1999) — which portray life in three major Israeli cities (Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, respectively). Freely...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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After making two powerful period films dealing with Israel's turbulent past, filmmaker Amos Gitai returned to dramatic comedy with a film that could sit comfortably beside his "City Trilogy" — DEVARIM (1998), YOM YOM (1999) and KADOSH (1999) — which portray life in three major Israeli cities (Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, respectively). Freely adapted from Yehoshua Kenaz's multicharacter novel Returning Last Loves, the film focuses on a run-down Tel Aviv apartment building wherein the lives of several tenants overlap, despite the efforts of a few to remain anonymous. One such tenant is Hezi (Amos Levie), a mysterious married man who uses the apartment to tryst with his mistress, beautiful, bewigged masochist Gabi (Yael Abelcassis), who actually seems to relish the harsh restrictions Hezi has put on her. She's not to answer the phone, she's not to speak to the other tenants and she's not to call Hezi, ever. He'll get in touch with her when he's ready for sex. Schwartz (Yosef Carmon), the elderly head of the tenant's association, despairs over the fact that so few apartment owners actually live in the building, choosing instead to sublet their apartments to the worst possible element. He's particularly upset about the hot-headed Ronit (Ronit Elkabetz) and her gang of Sephardic Jews, who are extending their ground-floor apartment into the parking lot. Schwartz is convinced that Ronit plans to rent out the extension to more of her kind, but can't get anyone to stop them. The crew of illegal Chinese construction workers doing the work is being supervised by Ezra (Uri Klauzner), a contractor with problems of his own. Ever since Ezra was dumped by his wife, Mali (Hanna Laslo), who could no longer stand his gloomy outlook, he's been living out of his van, which he keeps parked in Mali's driveway. Now their 18-year-old son, Eyal (Amit Metechkin), has gone AWOL from the army and Ezra fears he's living among the hustlers and drug addicts who prowl Tel Aviv's underbelly. Gitai's film is an interesting, if not entirely successful, adaptation of an excellent book. In their attempt to reduce the number of characters without sacrificing the novel's rich texture, Gitai and cowriter Marie-Jose Sanselme (KIPPUR, KEDMA) have only complicated matters by combining characters and story lines into an often-confusing tangle. But while Gitai lacks Kenaz's subtlety, they share an unsparing vision of contemporary Israeli life and an ambivalent attitude towards compulsory military service. It would to interesting to see what Gitai, himself a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, would make of Kenaz's masterpiece, Infiltration, a sprawling insider's account of life in the Israeli Army circa 1955. (In Hebrew, with English subtitles.)

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