Anything but explosive

’HitparzutX’ is a passionless movie about love that lacks passion.

December 17, 2010 16:32
3 minute read.

HitparzutX 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Do all Israeli films have to be about the Holocaust or the Lebanon War? No. But that doesn’t mean there is any excuse for undistinguished dramas like HitparzutX. There is enough mediocre fare on television or in movies from abroad that at least feature genuine movie stars to fulfill the need we all sometimes feel for a soap opera.

Does HitparzutX aspire to be more than a simple melodrama? Yes, but its layer of pretension is its least appealing quality. Although this is a carefully made film with good acting, it isn’t trashy enough to be fun nor distinctive or realistic enough to be compelling.

Its premise is achingly familiar: Ilan (Yossi Pollak), a middle-aged man who is a distinguished astronomer, is married to Naomi (Melanie Peres), a gorgeous, much younger woman.

He suspects she is cheating on him with a younger man, and he’s right.

He becomes obsessed with her to the point where he can barely work.

Counseling won’t help this couple.

The emotions aroused in him by her betrayal drive him to act savagely.

Although it is counter to his peaceful, intellectual philosophy of life, he is pushed to take an extreme step.

Before you can say, “That sounds like Unfaithful, that movie with Richard Gere and Diane Lane and that guy from the perfume ads,” you’ll want to know what’s new in HitparzutX. And the answer, sadly, is “not enough.”

The Hebrew title, Hitparzut X, refers to a term from astronomy about a sudden and unexpected explosion and is an all-too-obvious metaphor for Ilan’s transformation.

This veneer of high-minded intellectualism doesn’t make the obvious plot any more interesting, though. Naomi’s bearded, artist lover (Rami Heuberger) could be an exact clone of the character Viggo Mortensen played in A Perfect Murder (1999), except that Viggo didn’t speak Hebrew. It’s nice to see Heuberger in a role where he gets to be sexy and doesn’t play a repressed Holocaust survivor for a change, though.

Ilan’s childhood friend and confidant, police detective Anton (Suhel Haddad), is the same low-key cop who is sharper than he looks. He should be quite familiar to any frequent moviegoer.

But there is one revelation amid all the banality, and that is veteran actress Orna Porat as Ilan’s mother.

The actress brings a great intensity to this role of the blunt, tactless but shrewd mother who is willing to go to any length to protect her son.

Porat raises the film above the movie-of-the-week level whenever she gets the chance, which isn’t often enough. Watching Porat, who won an award for her performance at the Haifa International Film Festival, you begin to get a glimpse of what the movie could have been if it had been more heartfelt.

The supporting cast is fine, but the real problem is the lovers. There’s no spark between them, and it’s hard to believe there ever was one. If the lovers did not once burn for each other, then why should we care that their relationship is falling apart? Melanie Peres is beautiful enough to inspire passion, but her role is underwritten. Why did she marry this unprepossessing older man, and why does she betray him? The answers may be found in the Edna Mazia novel on which the film is based, but they are not on the screen.

Pollak, a well-known screen and stage actor, does what he can with a shopworn role. He looks oddly like Fernando Rey, who often played a quizzical middle-aged or elderly lecher in Luis Bunuel films. And Pollak is never less than convincing, no matter how clichéd the dialogue is. But the similarity between him and Rey is unfortunate, not because Pollak can’t act but because the specter of the brilliant, wildly original and sometimes shocking Bunuel movies haunted me throughout HitparzutX. I kept hoping there would be some wild Bunuel touch that would shock me out of the dullness of this overly literal story.

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