Sex and the city, Kollek style

For his latest movie, ‘Chronicling A Crisis,’ Amos Kollek, the son of iconic Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, has gone back to his Israeli roots.

August 28, 2011 21:49
Amos Kollek, Robin

Amos Kollek_311. (photo credit: Osnat Kollek)

There is a delightful and typically unrestrained vignette in the middle of the Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl movie in which a man comes on stage with a guitar, plays a couple of outrageously out of tune chords, and merrily informs his audience: “I’ve suffered for my music, now it’s your turn.” While the analogy may not be entirely watertight, the general sentiment rings true for Amos Kollek’s latest documentary Chronicling A Crisis, which will be screened at the cinematheques around the country in the coming weeks.

Kollek has an impressive roster of films to his name, as writer, producer and director, the best known of which are Fast Food Fast Women (2000) and Sue (1997), both of which starred Anna Thomson. The former gained Official Selection status at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, while Sue was included in the same category of the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival, and also took the prestigious Fripesci Award of the International Federation of Film Critics. So, we’re not talking about some young upstart here. Kollek is a bona fide respected member of the profession with a serious global career.

But, all artists have their creative troughs. For some it is but a momentary dip in their artistic continuum, for some it takes longer to get back on track, while others never produce decent work again. 64-year-old Kollek, son of late iconic Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, has managed to get going again, but went through a painfully stagnant hiatus and only dragged himself back up into the productive sphere of work by getting out there, primarily onto the unforgiving streets of New York, with his camera.

Having spent much of his adult life in New York, it is a milieu with which Kollek is very familiar. He has explored the less salubrious side of the city before, including in the 1994 pseudo-documentary Bad Girls (aka Whore 2) and the 1989 crime-drama High Stakes.

The eponymous “crisis” pertains both to Kollek and some of the characters who people the documentary, principally Robin, a New York prostitute and drug addict. In Chronicling A Crisis we get to see how Robin, and Kollek – and, to an extent, Kollek’s wife Osnat – weather the storm and come out in an, albeit imperfect, but improved state of mind and creative flow.

It is clear from the outset that Kollek feels very empathetic towards Robin.

“I put a lot into her and tried to sort some of her problems out,” says the director. “I don’t normally do that but I definitely went through a process myself during the course of making the film.”

CHRONICLING A Crisis sheds some light on the seedier side of the Big Apple but, through the filmmaker, the thread runs through this part of the world too. Kollek travels between New York and Jerusalem and we are party to his ruminations about some of the political and social aspects of life here and, more importantly, his difficult relationship with his famous dad.

“It was a therapeutic experience for me, but I didn’t really know where the whole thing would lead. I just went out there with my camera.”

There have been some, says Kollek, who tie his temporary dip in creative flight in with his father’s death, in 2007 at the age of 95.

“Some people have suggested that having my dad around was good for me because I tried to compete with him so that spurred me on to do good work, and that when he died it all stopped for me. I’m not sure I subscribe to that line of thought,” says Kollek.

Chronicling A Crisis, as one might expect, has its painful almost pitiful moments, and there are also some touching and uplifting scenes, and even the odd comic aside. There is a disarming honesty about the film, and much of Kollek’s work over the years, which frequently has an endearing quirkiness to it.

Kollek and Robin travel significant emotional and experiential ground, together and individually, and there is clearly strong chemistry between them.

“Robin became my friend,” notes the director.

“If you asked me to name my 10 best friends in the world she’d be on the list. But she is not a reliable person.

It’s not that she doesn’t care but, for example, I’d make an appointment with her to do some shooting and she’d call me two days later to say she’d dozed off after doing heroin.”

The film is a meandering rollercoaster of an affair.

That’s the way Kollek sometimes likes to work and, evidently, what suited him as he set out on a journey of self-rediscovery.

“I wanted to see what grabbed me. The way the film panned out wasn’t planned.”

Probably the only thing about Chronicling A Crisis that was “planned” was Kollek’s emotional catharsis.

The director also says he was looking for some sort of truth, something tangibly genuine which could provide him with a better grip on things.

“I met a lot of women while making the movie whom I liked, liked a lot better than a lot of the women I know who are phony baloney bullshit people, including people in politics. I felt, in some ways, that Robin was a female version of me.” That also touches on the darker side of his and Robin’s life pattern.

“I felt she was sort of racing to her grave and I felt I was very self-destructive at the time. At the time, it was clear that my father was also racing to his grave. He’d been such an iconic figure for so long and it was all about to end.”

Is there anything that Kollek would like his audiences to take away with them from the film?

“Some people ask you, OK, you film your father who is obviously a well known and important statesman, or whatever you call it. Then you film a hooker who, by usual standards, has no value to anybody. And then you film your daughters and your wife and yourself, and people ask what are you trying to say? I don’t know what I am trying to say. I only know I am saying it.”

‘Chronicling A Crisis’ will be screened at the cinematheques of Tel Aviv (August 29, 8 p.m.), Jerusalem (August 30, 9 p.m.), Rosh Pina (September 10, 7:30 p.m.) and Haifa (September 22, 7:30 p.m.)

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