Tag Archives: Israeli films

Friend of the Family

The Cakemaker

by George Wolf

A delicately subtle and sometimes poetic film, The Cakemaker boasts sterling performances and finely drawn characters for a resonant meditation of love, loss, faith and…food.

Thomas (Tim Kalkhof in a wonderfully tender, understated turn) is a German baker at a Berlin cafe. He begins a long-term affair with Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli businessman with a wife and son in Jerusalem. When Oren misses his monthly visit to Berlin and calls go unanswered, it takes some persistence on Thomas’s part to discover that Oren has been killed in a car accident.

Grief and confusion take Thomas to Berlin, where he discreetly seeks out Oren’s widow Arat (Foxtrot‘s Sarah Adler – excellent again), takes a job baking at her cafe, and assumes a growing place in her life. This brings differing (and telling) reactions from Arat’s family, and could threaten her cafe’s important kosher certification.

Writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer adopts a quiet, observational tone that is deceptively effective. Though this type of triangle may not be new (especially to foreign film fans), the way Graizer lingers on little moments (especially those in the kitchen) make even the most mundane encounters seem sensuous.

You may know where The Cakemaker is going, but getting there is a sweet and satisfying trip.




Three’s Company

In Between

by Rachel Willis

For women stuck between tradition and modernity, the choices presented to them can mean happiness or alienation from friends, family, and society. In Between explores these choices through the eyes of three women living as roommates in Tel Aviv.

The women are wildly different. There’s attractive, social Laila, who parties with her friends at night while working as a lawyer during the day. Salma is a tattooed, pierced chef whose parents are determined to find her a suitable husband. Nour, a conservative Muslim, is already engaged, but living in Tel Aviv to complete her degree in computer science.

Writer/director Maysaloun Hamoud, in her debut as a feature filmmaker, builds her narrative first from the perspective of each woman on her own, before drawing the stories together into a larger commentary on the world they inhabit.

The roommates connect over shared desires, as well as shared heartache. A particularly touching scene links Laila and Nour, as they prepare a dinner for Laila’s boyfriend. Laila is nervous, as she’s not cooked for anyone in some time, but Nour, who’s doing most of the cooking, reassures her that she does it for her betrothed all the time. It’s an intimate moment and details the different lives the two women lead.

There are additional intimate scenes between the women, and each is touching in uniquely different ways. A particular moment in which the roommates rally around Nour is both heartbreaking and poignant. It further reiterates the connection between women in a world that can be difficult to navigate, especially as it changes.

As Laila, Mouna Hawa is especially dynamic. She is the embodiment of a woman who knows who she is and what she wants, even if the world around her isn’t ready to accept that. However, Nour, magnificently portrayed by Shaden Kanboura, is perhaps the most interesting character as she is the one who changes most over the course of the film.

Salma’s (Sana Jammelieh) story feels the least explored. Though it carries its own emotional weight, when compared to the others it sometimes feels more like an afterthought.

Hamoud doesn’t shy away from forcing her characters into difficult, sometimes scary situations. Nor does she pull any punches in showing how those situations can leave a lasting impact. It’s often a rather bleak examination of the world women are forced to occupy.

These women have choices ahead of them, but the question is what they’ll have to give up to make them.

Look Out, Little Red Riding Hood

Big Bad Wolves

by Hope Madden

If you watched the film Prisoners and thought, wow, this could only be better if it were more graphic and a little funnier, then have I got the movie for you! (Also, get some psychiatric help.)

A mixture of disturbing fairy tale and ugly reality, Israel’s Big Bad Wolves takes you places you really don’t want to go, but damn if it doesn’t keep you mesmerized every minute.

The particularly vulgar slaughter of several little girls sets events in motion. One teacher is suspected. One cop is driven. One father suffers from grief-stricken mania. It’s going to get really ugly.

Filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado implicate everyone, audience included. They create intentional parallels among the three men, pointing to the hypocrisy of the chase and making accusations all around of a taste for the intoxicating bloodlust that comes from dominating a weaker person.

Their taut and twisty script keeps surprises coming, but it’s the humor that’s most unexpected. Handled with dark, dry grace by Lior Ashkenazi (the cop) and Tzahi Grad (the father) – not to mention Doval’e Glickman (the grandfather) – this script elicits shamefaced but magnetic interest. You cannot look away, even when the blowtorch comes out. And God help you, it’s hard not to laugh now and again.

The violence is not shot to amuse. It is jarring and awful. But the subdued lunacy of the perpetrators allows a complicated kind of respite from the ugliness in the basement. Complicated because it pulls you back over to the side of men torturing another who – for all we, the audience, know – is as innocent as he claims to be.

Clearly the filmmakers are interested in the toxic ineffectiveness of torture as a method of interrogation, but the film never feels preachy. The characters are too well drawn, the performances too compelling, and the writing too full of misdirection.

The duo abandon the dark and dreamy camerawork that gave the early reels its menacingly hypnotic feel, and while the straightforward grit of later material suits the content, it’s hard not to miss the Goth poetry of Act I. But these two know how to develop dread, punctuate the darkness with almost absurdly beautiful images, and deliver a punishing blow. Big Bad Wolves will haunt your sleep.