(photo credit: Courtesy)
Wristcutters: A Love Story, based on the story, Kneller's Happy Campers by Israeli novelist Etgar Keret, has just arrived in stores here, and it's well worth renting. This offbeat, wonderful film was actually made two years ago and has played the festival circuit, but had only a very brief theatrical release. Part of the problem in terms of generating interest is undoubtedly the title: Who would want to see a movie with a name like that? But in spite of the title, there is no gore in the movie. What it's about is not the act of suicide so much as its aftermath. It's set in an afterlife peopled entirely by those who have killed themselves. Zia (Patrick Fugit, who played the teen rock critic in Almost Famous) takes his life after his girlfriend, Desiree (Leslie Bibb), dumps him. In the afterlife, he works at Kamikaze Pizzeria, shares a cramped apartment with a nasty guy, and discovers that the next world is like the last one, only everything is a little bit worse. He considers committing suicide again, but is afraid what's coming will be worse still. Eventually, he befriends Eugene, a musician from a Russian family. All of Eugene's family committed suicide, so even in the afterlife, he lives with his parents. When Zia learns that Desiree also killed herself, he and Eugene set off to find her. On the way, they pick up Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon, a young actress with an Audrey Hepburn vibe), who claims she ended up in the afterlife by mistake. As the three of them search - Eugene and Zia for Desiree, and Mikal for the authorities who can straighten out the mistake that landed her there - they come to a circus-like commune run by Kneller, who's played with maximum cool by Tom Waits. If this sounds intriguing, that's because it is.
This is the first feature by Croatian director Goran Dukic, who adapted Keret's story. Dukic seems to be channeling the minimalist but at the same time emotional style of Aki Kaurismaki (particularly his American road movie, Leningrad Cowboys Go America) and Hal Hartley, especially his earlier films such as Trust and The Unbelievable Truth. One pleasure of Wristcutters is Dukic's attention to details. For example, Eugene drives a beat-up car that is held together by tape and seeing it will make you realize how rare it is that any car in the movies looks like a real car. It also has a black hole under the seat: Anything that rolls down there disappears forever, which certainly reminds me of a few actual cars I've had. Keret has a knack for writing very cinematic fiction and several of his stories have been adapted for the big screen. Keret made his debut as a director (alongside his wife, Shira Geffen), last year with Jellyfish (Meduzot), which won the coveted Camera d'Or Prize at Cannes for first-time features.
Hilla Medalia's acclaimed documentary, To Die in Jerusalem, just won another honor, the first prize at the Human Rights Film Festival in Paris. To Die in Jerusalem is a portrait of Rachel Levy, a 17-year-old killed in a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem supermarket six years ago, and her killer, also a 17-year-old girl, named Ayat al-Akras. Medalia explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through their reactions of their grieving families. The film will be broadcast in June on the YES Docu channel.
The big Israeli hit of last year, Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit, is now out on DVD. This film, which swept Israel's Ophir Awards and won a huge number of international prizes, such as the top award at the Tokyo Film Festival and several awards of the European Film Academy (including Best Actor for Sasson Gabai, a real coup), tells the story of an Egyptian police band that comes to Israel, gets lost and ends up spending the night in a tiny Negev town. Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz give wonderful performances as the leader of the band and the owner of a cafÃ© in the town. Saleh Bakri shows real movie-star screen presence as a seductive young musician. A plot summary doesn't do justice to this beautifully acted and moving film, which I predict will work well on the small screen.
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