“America” Review: A colorful, influential Israeli melodrama
“America” is a burdensome title for Israeli director Ofir Raul Graizer’s bright, fragile new film, which throws expectations of continental-sized imports into a more individual, interior study of immigrant unrest. This study by a Chicago-based swimming coach who returns to his home country of Israel after his father’s death – sets in motion a chain of both current accidents and dissolved traumas – visually iridescent and unexpected buoyancy. melodramatic storytelling with a softer, more searching look at conflict-filled identity, both cultural and sexual. If the film is not always narratively believable, it feels sincere to the last.
“America” shares this appealing feature – in addition to some parallel plot points and a quiet, tough skew – with the Graizers’ 2017 debut “The Cakemaker”, and should resonate with the same audience that made that film (chosen as Israel’s international Oscar submission) an arthouse sleep. Once again, Graizer’s original script outlines a kind of bisexual love triangle, albeit one in which the participants are shy to recognize their feelings, and where his previous film used the death of a common loved one to set events in motion, here is the most classic of melodramatic standbys – an extended coma – that serve the same purpose. Yet “America’s” sensual delicacy and weak literary formality balance out its sporadic dependence on stock clichés: Sometimes it seems to actively seek to prove why ancient tear-jerking troops still do the job.
Only the opening minutes of the film are set in the anonymous territory, when we are introduced to the shy, handsome thirties Eli (Michael Moshonov) at the health club in Chicago where he works as an instructor for children who have not yet learned to swim. He is a former swimmer and is encouraged by his employers to coach competing teams instead, but he is adamant that he prefers to teach the incompetent – and as his story emerges in fragments during the film’s unsurpassed two-hour-plus playing time, will finally see why. There are, in fact, a number of mysteries that need to be uncovered regarding this soft protagonist, beginning with what I should call him in the first place: His last name was at one point changed from Greenberg to Cross (“a little radical, no?” Asks an official), and although the inconsistent spelling of his first name (it sometimes changes to Ilai) may initially seem like a captioning mistake, it’s a lot of the design.
Eli is, it seems, a man who wanted to get lost when he arrived in the United States from Tel Aviv a few years ago – and when a lawyer calls to inform him of the policeman’s father’s recent death, he is not exactly overwhelmed by grief. . Yet he dutifully returns to Israel to settle his father’s affairs; when he enters the family house, sparsely furnished with a series of rifles mounted on otherwise bare white walls, we have no idea an abundance of rose memorabilia. (His mother is also gone, under circumstances that are gradually revealed through the film’s chapter-divided timeline.) There is something more warm in his reunion with his childhood friend and swimming partner Yotam (Ofri Biterman), who now lives with his Ethiopian florist fiancé Iris (Oshrat). Ingedashet) in an apartment as homely and vividly decorated as Elis is cool – but we can not help but capture a physical hesitation in the two men’s interactions, a stream of mutual desire that they both tacitly agree to talk about.
However, the tragedy occurs when Eli and Yotam go on a nostalgic hike to a favorite beauty area in Haifa, and an accidental fall leaves the latter in a coma in hospital, with doctors fearing that he will remain in a permanent vegetative state. Accused of the accident, Eli is first pushed away by Iris; months later, they are slowly reconciled, while he calls on her horticultural skills to revive her father’s barren backyard. (Graizer’s script does not deal with subtle metaphors.) While committing to common interests and experiences of immigrant disorientation – Iris has never warmed up to Tel Aviv, complaining first of all that all the houses are painted white – a kind of attraction builds between them , even though it is actually the absence of Yotam that they share, and resolve for a time in each other.
Graizer largely leaves the viewers to make these conclusions for themselves, while we read between the lines of polite dialogue and examine the questioning glances and weighted pauses that are marked by the principals’ gracefully restrained achievements. Sometimes one can wish for a more direct, visceral expression of red-blooded feelings in “America”, although there is pathos in that frustration: More people’s lives may be different here if they spoke more boldly. The contrasting vividness of the filmmaking, meanwhile, speaks for them, with DP Omri Aloni’s primary images based on Iris ‘dense, ornate floral arrangements, foreground lyrics that sometimes fill the characters’ verbal abysses when necessary, and some of the most implicit addictions to since Smell-o-Vision had its short day in theaters: Never before has a film projected so much poetry into a single crushed sage leaf, but “America” can take unexpected paths to obvious emotions.