Co-produced by his protege, acclaimed director Diane Kurys (PEPPERMINT SODA, ENTRE NOUS, C'EST LA VIE), Alexandre Arcady's semi-autobiographical POUR SACHA is a bland if intermittently interesting drama.
Sacha (Richard Berry) has left his career as a Parisian philosophy professor to come to the Yardena Kibbutz, which lies just below the Golan Heights in Israel, to discover his Jewish roots. One of his students, Laura (Sophie Marceau), who is non-Jewish, has followed, desperately in love with him.
(She's even put her budding career as a violinist on hold.) They have lived together passionately on the kibbutz for two years. Now, in June 1967, three more of Sacha's former students join them: Michel (Frederic Quiring), Simon (Niels Dubost) and Paul (Fabien Orcier), partly to help celebrate the
20th birthday of Laura, with whom they are also in varying degrees in love.
Sacha, however, has been inducted into the Army, although the tensions that will soon lead to the Six Days' War little effect the bucolic kibbutz life, to which the three newcomers begin to assimilate. Paul is deeply troubled, and at Laura's birthday party he shows home movies of them all back in
Paris, including another member of the coterie, Myriam (Shlomit Cohen), who later committed suicide, for which Sacha feels responsible--he broke off their love affair--and which prompted his move to Israel.
With all this unresolved, the war breaks out, and Sacha is part of the Army unit that frees Jerusalem. Near to both the Syrian and Jordanian borders, the kibbutz is under constant threat, and the now bunker-living kibbutzniks finally learn that Sacha has been killed. After the war ends and Sacha
is buried, Laura gets a letter addressed to Sacha from Myriam, delivered by her brother (Gerald Darmon), absolving Sacha of any connection with her death.
Veteran French filmmaker Alexandre Arcady has previously merged very personal themes with genre formulae in such films as his first, SIROCCO, about North African emigres in 1960s Paris; LE GRAND CARNAVAL, a WWII epic about the American army landing in Algeria; and BROTHERS IN ARMS, in which a
Jewish cop and an Arab secret serviceman join forces to fight terrorism. (Arcady was born in Algeria, the North African country which, after years of guerrilla warfare, received its independence from French rule in 1962.) None of these films were released in the US. (His only "impersonal" film,
the Belmondo romp HOLD UP was inventively remade by Bill Murray and Howard Franklin as QUICK CHANGE.) POUR SACHA is probably his most personal project; Arcady himself left Paris at age eighteen upon the suicide of a friend to stay on an Israeli kibbutz. Unfortunately, perhaps because he is so
close to this material, POUR SACHA, cowritten, as are all of his films, with Daniel Saint-Hamont, is the weakest of his movies.
The central love story is remarkably, considering its attractive leads, uninvolving. And although it's 1967, permitting Sacha to tumble literally in the hay with a shapely Italian visitor, only to be dismissed by Laura as part of her lover's torment, reveals a blind spot common to many
intellectual French male directors. (Laura knows Sacha loves only her, and he's only trying to protect her from too much intimacy, etc.) Arcady is also less tough-minded here than in his earlier films in dealing with the themes involved. While he does soft-pedal somewhat the usual filmic portrayal
of kibbutz life as utopia (sun, work, sex, eating, drinking, sex, etc.), he never tackles, as we might expect him to (especially considering his background), the issues of the war, Arab and Israeli territorialism or the racism involved. Genre requirements are also more baldly utilized (the awkward
if stylistically interesting manner the Myriam subject is inserted--Paul packed 16mm film cans in his luggage?!--and Sacha dying immediately after touching the Wailing Wall), so that the last reel (Laura's grief, Sacha's funeral, etc.) becomes lugubrious.
The production is a fine-looking one and boasts an excellent score by veteran Philippe Sarde. Secondary performers far outshine the leads, including a brief bit by Emmanuelle Riva, the luminous star of Resnais's HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR, as Myriam's mother. The $8 million film was shot on location in
Israel in late 1989 and early 1990, just as Iraq invaded Kuwait, which reportedly made the filming risky. (Sexual situations, brief nudity.)
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