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When Eytan Fox's Walk On Water, got nominated for a Cesar, a French Oscar, in the Best Foreign Film category last week, it wasn't really a surprise. The American-born, Jerusalem-raised director has proven that he can make films that travel well. Walk On Water, the top-grossing Israeli movie in history, tells the story of a straight Mossad agent who befriends the gay grandson of an infamous Nazi, and, as a friend of mine in New York said, "It was seen by every gay Jew in America" (as well as many other people). His earlier film, Yossi & Jagger, was originally made for Israeli TV, but it was so good that it got a theatrical release in Israel, which led to international film festivals and an international release. Eventually, one of its lead actors, Ohad Knoller, earned an award for Best Actor at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, one of a handful of times an Israeli has won an international acting award. Now, Fox is in post-production on his latest movie, Bubble, in which he revisits themes from his earlier movies, as well as his television show, Florentine, a look at young Israelis in increasingly hip South Tel Aviv. Bubble tells the story of three friends (Knoller again, along with Danialla Wircer and Alon Friedman) who live and work in and around Tel Aviv's trendy Sheinkin Street, at places like The Third Ear video store. They manage to have fun and insulate themselves from the realities of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, until Knoller's character, who is gay, falls in love with a Palestinian named Ashraf (Yossef Sweid) he meets while doing reserve duty in the West Bank. The three Tel Aviv residents invite Ashraf to come live with them, illegally. As Ashraf begins to get comfortable in Tel Aviv, the other three find that their friendship unravels. As usual for Fox, it's an ambitious theme, but it's very likely he can do it justice.
The Cesar Award winners will be announced on February 25. Walk has some heavy competition: David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Within, Woody Allen's Match Point, and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby are the other nominees in the Foreign Film category, but Walk was well received in France, so who knows?
THE SPANISH DIRECTOR Pedro Almodovar is known worldwide, but there are dozens of other distinguished Spanish filmmakers whose work does not draw as much attention. Throughout the month of February, you can catch up with some of these films at a Spanish film festival, which will be held at the cinematheques around the country. The series is featuring films that won the Goya Award, Spain's Oscar. These films include the 1994 Dias Contados (Running Out of Time), directed by Imanol Uribe, about a member of a European terror organization (Carmelo Gomez), who becomes distracted when he falls for a beautiful drug addict (Ruth Gabriel). Javier Bardem, best known for Before Night Falls and The Sea Within, co-stars. Bardem is also the star of Mondays in the Sun (2002), a drama about unemployed workers that was a critical success in Spain. Nobody Will Talk About After We're Dead (1995), is a gritty crime drama about a young woman (Victoria Abril, an actress who works frequently with Almodovar) who witnesses a crime and then has to flee from gangsters. The full program for the festival will be announced soon.
IN A REVIEW I wrote recently of the Israeli film, Year Zero, which features a character who is a saintly blind man who possesses more insight than anyone else in the film, I said that I would like to see a movie about a blind person who turns out to be a jerk from start to finish (movies featuring a crusty sightless person who turns out to have a heart of gold wouldn't count). Lately, I've been thinking of a few other clich s I'd like to see shattered on screen. One would be a Mossad agent (or agent of any other country's secret service) who suffers no torment over his work (unlike the characters in Steven Spielberg's Munich). A movie in which a stuffy widow breaks conventions but then feels bored or uncomfortable rather than liberated would be nice (as opposed to the title character in the soon-to-be-released Mrs. Henderson Presents, in which Judi Dench gives her life new meaning by opening a nude burlesque revue, one that is utterly pure except for the nudity it shows on stage - no prostitution, pimps or payoffs involved here). These are just a couple of tiring recent movie clich s, but don't expect to see movies that shatter them anytime soon.