‘And on the Third Day’ Moshe Ivgy should have rested

Something is rotten in the State of Israel – and it’s this movie.

On the Third Day 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
On the Third Day 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jean-Paul Sartre said, famously, that hell is other people. But some viewers might think, after seeing Moshe Ivgy’s And on the Third Day, that hell is a movie in which three characters vomit, one of them in half a dozen scenes.
Many reviews and websites mention the sex and violence in movies so that parents will know whether to take their children and teens. Since one of my oldest friends has a strong aversion to onscreen regurgitation, I am particularly sensitive to this element, and And on the Third Day would definitely rate a scarlet “V” for the most vomiting in recent memory.
This is the first film directed by Ivgy, who is one of Israel’s best and busiest actors, and if the vomiting were the only problem, it could perhaps be chalked up to a rookie mistake. Born in Morocco, he did not have an easy time when he decided, about 30 years ago, to become an actor. Actors from Mizrahi backgrounds were generally relegated to minor character roles. But Ivgy persisted, and he has more than proved himself on screen.
But And on the Third Day is an unpleasant mess of a movie. It mixes serious themes with exploitation, then presents it all with improbable plot turns.
Besides the vomiting, there are scenes of a likable character nearly being burned alive by vengeful goons, a prostitute being graphically humiliated by various johns, beatings (to his credit, Ivgy, who appears in the film, takes one himself), middle-aged actors dancing nude to trance music, and . . . you get the idea. Clearly, the point is to show that something is rotten in the State of Israel, and who could disagree? But, unfortunately, one of the many rotten things is this movie.
The film opens at a bar mitzva.
and I just knew that the film would highlight the misery and emptiness behind the beaming smiles of the main characters. A musician (Sharon Alexander) flirts with married women and then beats them, to try to cope with his loneliness. A female tax inspector fights her corrupt superior to try to bring a crooked rabbi and politician to justice. A controlling husband drives his depressed wife to an affair. A young girl searches for her boyfriend, who betrays her. A bar owner (Ivgy) is accused of raping an older woman. And, to get back to the vomiting, an isolated call girl suffers from bulimia. It all takes place against the backdrop of Tel Aviv during a garbage strike, a filthy, noisy utterly unappealing city.
If you’ve seen an Israeli movie or two over the years, you will be forgiven for thinking “been there, seen that.” This film is like a combination of two Israeli films, Year Zero and Distortion, recreating the most grating aspects of each.
Years ago I identified a genre of films called the TAMP movie, an acronym for Tel Aviv’s Miserable People, and this film fits into that genre perfectly: Unpleasant people scream at each other in cramped apartments and on dirty streets.
This film adds another layer of pseudo profundity (what Woody Allen called “total heavy-osity” in Annie Hall) by having the film end with an unspecified disaster, as what appear to be missiles rain down on the city. Using the fear of war to somehow amplify the characters’ anomie is as cheap a trick as using a suicide bombing, which has certainly been done a number of times.
Although Ivgy apparently wants to point to the lack of civility in daily life and to rub our noses in the unpleasantness of it all, there are a number of very unrealistic details. For example, while the characters spend a fair amount of time in their cars, no one ever has to hunt for a parking space. Whenever a character needs a taxi, one appears, as if placed there by magic. And no matter how trapped and unloved the female characters feel, they all seem to have ample time to tone their thighs, even as they juggle career, family and bulimia.
While I wish I could have the 118 minutes I spent watching this back, I still look forward to seeing Ivgy again, when he gets back to his day job.