[Marxism] Alila (Dir. Amos Gitai)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Feb 27 06:42:44 MST 2004

No Peace in a City Teeming With Life
Published: February 27, 2004

The Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai is an acerbic social critic who 
likes to point fingers and pick at warts, and "Alila," his acidly 
comic study of life in a flimsy Tel Aviv apartment complex, is a sour 
urban mosaic whose seedy characters, try as they might, can't get out 
of one another's faces. Their residence, jerry-built in a dreary 
working-class section of Tel Aviv, is anything but a sleek, 
well-appointed urban retreat basking in the sunlight; a grubby 
housing development baking in the heat is more like it.

The building's walls are so thin that everyone's private business is 
made public. In one grotesquely funny scene, Hezi (Amos Lavie), a 
secretive older man, carries on a flaming affair with Gabi (Yaël 
Abecassis), a masochistic young woman besotted with his macho 
self-assurance. Everyone knows about the relationship because even a 
hand clamped over a mouth can't silence the couple's raucous 
lovemaking. The affair has no future. The moment Gabi begins to 
clutch at her brutal lover, he begins to withdraw.

The movie, loosely adapted from Yehoshua Knaz's novel "Returning Lost 
Loves," tries to juggle too many characters at once (its title means 
"story plot" in Hebrew), and in several cases their connections 
aren't adequately explained. A builder, Ezra (Uri Klauzner), whose 
illegally employed Chinese assistants toil noisily and at all hours 
on an unlicensed expansion of the apartment into the courtyard, has a 
sullen cream puff of a son, Eyal (Amit Mestechkin), who deserts the 
army and hides out in the city's red-light district.

A stern ex-army officer, Ezra and his divorced wife, Mali (Hanna 
Laslo), clash bitterly about Eyal's cowardice. The father wants to 
disown him, but the mother is forgiving, and the surprise upshot of 
the boy's desertion is one of the story's unconvincing plot turns.

Disgustedly observing the chaos is Schwartz (Yosef Carmon), a 
doddering Holocaust survivor on the brink of senility, whose peace is 
shattered by the apartment's expansion. When that expansion hits a 
snag, he is deliriously happy, his faculties miraculously restored.

There really isn't a likable character in the movie, which opens 
today in Manhattan. The filmmaker's jaundiced view of humanity is 
matched by his eye for the ugly. This section of Tel Aviv is a place 
of dirt and mud and noise. Its physical desolation is matched by the 
insensitive behavior of characters hellbent on pursuing their 
personal agendas.

In the filmmaker's view of Tel Aviv (and perhaps of Israel in 
general), the social contract that gave birth to modern Israel is 
coming unraveled, and a desperate each-man-for-himself greed has 
taken over. A production note informs us that there are 300,000 
illegal immigrant workers from Asia, Romania, Ghana and Nigeria in 
contemporary Israel. And the movie conveys the sense of Tel Aviv as 
the flashpoint for all this diversity.

Beneath the prevailing selfishness lurks the anxiety of living in a 
guerrilla war zone where news of suicide bombings and other acts of 
terrorism are reported matter-of-factly on the news all day, every 
day. If "Alila" shows a city teeming with life, it also suggests a 
place where no peace is to be had.

Directed by Amos Gitai
In Hebrew, with English subtitles
Not rated, 123 minutes

<http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/27/movies/27ALIL.html>   *****

Cf. <http://www.kino.com/alila/>

* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
* Calendars of Events in Columbus: 
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>

More information about the Marxism mailing list