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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

HEARAT SHULAYIM / FOOTNOTE (2011)

BEAUFORT/’07, the previous film from Israeli writer/director Joseph Cedar, followed a group of nervous & nerveless soldiers thru the tense closing of a border outpost. Consistently interesting, it raised more issues than its inexperienced author could comfortably handle, ending up less a completed project than fodder for an evening’s discussion at the local Jewish Community Center. In his new film, Cedar ups the ante, now the subject matter is a JCC seminar! (30% off for members.) It’s a clever, gimmicky Father/Son story about first & second generation Talmud scholars: Papa’s the grump who got gypped out of recognition; Son’s the smoothy who knows how to play the academic system. But now, a bureaucratic SNAFU mistakenly awards a State-Sponsored prize to the elder scholar, and the son learns the truth on the Q.T. Old wounds, long-delayed confessions, and a lifetime of resentments & miscommunication spill out . . . even the next generation gets dragged into the fun. Wonderful stuff. But Cedar doesn’t trust us with his story and gets a real case of the cutes, with a wheezy background score to cue us in. And the film gets overloaded with character tics, especially from Papa who works his deadpan, stoic responses too hard. (Who in Israel is still surprised by tight security measures?) Or finds the son eavesdropping in a disguise fit for Feydeau Farce. Cedar has better luck with some nifty text-driven image manipulation and a well-run non-linear timeline. But you get the feeling that he’s not really up to the detail-driven Talmudic analysis we should be following like some post-modern data-based detective. Good as the film is, it sell us (and itself) short.

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