(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
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
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
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
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.