Published Aug 01, 2004Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai has never been one to steer clear of controversy, particularly in relation to the dubious historical undercurrents in Israel and Palestine (Kippur, Kedma). With his most recent effort, the focus is towards the microcosmic and metaphorical.
Set in a dusty working class neighbourhood on the boundary between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, an ensemble cast plays out the roles of nympho lovers, couples, pensioners and splintering families (Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts comes to mind). Equally present in Gitai's portrayal of a heterogeneous and raucous urban Israel are struggling illegal Chinese migrant workers.
Aviram and his dog, as well as old Schwartz with his Filipino caretaker, have generally led a quiet life in an old tenement building. But grating changes begin to take place when the couple living nearby begin to build an apartment extension in the yard without a permit. Meanwhile, Hezi rents out a room with his mistress Gabi and their howling sounds of sexual ecstasy combine with the construction work cacophony, more than irritating the neighbours. The contractor, Ezra (who has a host of illegals working under him), is mired by troubles with his son Eyal, who has deserted from the army, and an ex-wife who reminds him continually of his ineptitudes.
Gitai employs long takes and pans outside the apartment building windows, as if revealing the literal and figurative architecture of the space and its inhabitants. The contest for territory is viscerally humorous and incisively juxtaposed with a stream of radio news on the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians. While this film may not be the strongest in Gitai's oeuvre, it is a promising continuation from the director. (Mongrel Media)