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DAYS OF LOVE - **
Written and directed by Menahem Golan. Hebrew title: Yamim Shel Ahava. 90 minutes.
In Hebrew, no titles.
With Maya Buskila, Nir Levy, Joseph Shiloach, Zachi Noy, Moran Atias, Natali Atiya, Ran Bechor, Rami Bouzaglo
Did it ever occur to you that what Israeli cinema really needed right now was a homegrown remake of the film A Star Is Born? Well, veteran Israeli director/producer Menahem Golan (one half of the legendary B-movie Hollywood production company Golan-Globus) certainly thought so. And he has brought this oft-told tale to the screen starring one of the reigning divas of Israeli pop, Maya Buskila, in the showier of the two leading roles. The result is an entirely predictable, but not unpleasant entertainment. To get a truly informed review of the film, you would probably need to ask a 15-year-old Israeli girl addicted to telenovelas, because such a viewer is clearly the target audience. To dismiss this as trash is beside the point. It's meant to be a date movie, and why shouldn't there be genre movies for Israelis, made in Hebrew?
It follows the basic arc of all the other Star Is Born movies, in which a male performer (sometimes an actress, sometimes a singer) on the way down with a substance abuse problem (drugs, alcohol, or both) meets a female performer on the way up. They marry and then, as her career soars and his falls apart, he deteriorates, eventually committing suicide. The kicker is that in the last scene, in spite of all the heartbreak he has caused her, the widow reaffirms her love for her late husband. Depending on your temperament, this will either cause you to cry or snigger.
The best version ever made of this story was the 1954 Judy Garland-James Mason film, directed by George Cukor, although some prefer the 1937 William Wellman original, with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. The 1976 version, in which Barbra Streisand was not terribly convincing as a young, aspiring rock singer, in love with a dissolute star played by Kris Kristofferson, is mainly remembered for the cloying "Evergreen" theme, sung by Streisand. Now, to this pantheon of stars, we can add Maya Buskila and Nir Levy. In the Israeli version, Buskila is Margalit Dahan, a waitress in her father's caf in an unnamed city in "the South," presumably Ashdod or Ashekelon. Her widowed father (Joseph Shiloach), is old-fashioned and overprotective. He won't let her marry the sincere kiosk owner who pines for her, saying she is destined for a rich, distinguished husband.
When Levy, as the coke-snorting, alcohol guzzling pop star Dudu Ben-David, sees her perform at a small club, it's love at first sight. He lets her sing at his next concert, which is, of course, a triumph. But she is a good girl and won't go to bed with him, even after she sees his mansion, fronted by two white columns, and his huge (for Israel) swimming pool. He is instantly smitten and next we are treated to a falling-in-love montage in which the two spend most of their time shopping. The mall stores they visit include one selling wedding dresses, and she models a dozen or so, before the two end up in Cyprus for a civil ceremony. But she is sad, saying, "Where was the rabbi? It wasn't a Jewish ceremony."
At some point, her single, Buskila's real-life hit, "Autumn Night," is released, and it's an instant success. Her father comes around and we are treated to another ceremony, and, not surprisingly, another wedding dress. But trouble looms. As her star rises, according to the established formula for this plot, his drug use worsens. Returning from rehab, he starts using again and fails to show up for a comeback concert. Fortunately, she is at the theater in an evening gown and goes on instead of him, pausing only for costume changes. Finally - well, you know the rest.
What the movie is really about is not so much the melodrama as the lovely Buskila's clothes and accessories. In scene after scene she is decked out in elaborate (for Israel) gowns, bringing to mind music-diva movie showcases through the years, such as Mariah Carey's Glitter, Diana Rossâ€š Mahogany, and even Britney Spearsâ€š Crossroads. As diva actresses go, the fresh-faced, energetic Buskila is about average. It's hard to believe in her heartache since she seems so happy to be wearing all these great clothes and singing for packed houses. As the object of her affections, Levy is more convincing as a coke-snorting loser than as a magnetic star. But for the target audience for this film, he may well be a heartthrob.
Although this movie is nothing if not a bid for commercial success, Golan may have misjudged his audience. In the theater where I saw it, there was only one other viewer. Today's Israeli teens may prefer to go straight for the Hollywood version.