"COMRADE": Director Eyal Shiray lashed out against Jerusalem audiences for daring to ask him about the meaning of his muddled film.

Eyal Shiray 88 (photo credit: )
Eyal Shiray 88
(photo credit: )
It's always unsettling to listen to a director speak at a screening of a mediocre or downright bad movie and those who stayed to listen to director Eyal Shiray after his film, Comrade (the Hebrew title of the film, opening in wide release this week, is Soon Something Good Will Happen to You), was shown at the Jerusalem Cinematheque last week were treated to some particularly disingenuous and annoying remarks. The standard mode for a director post-screening is to discuss his film in such glowing terms that they would have sounded overblown if Orson Welles had uttered them at the premiere of Citizen Kane. But it's hard work to get a movie made and chutzpah is part of a director's job description, so the self-regard most directors exhibit is essential for them. What was unusual about the Comrade screening is that, when questioned by audience members about the meaning of his muddled film, Shiray essentially denied that it meant anything. Comrade, which stars Assi Dayan in an absolutely wonderful performance as an embittered elderly Communist who befriends a teenage runaway (Adam Hirsh), has some good moments but collapses once the Dayan character holes himself up in an abandoned building and begins to shoot cars and soldiers and blow up buildings. Is the film celebrating or condemning his behavior? And what exactly is the significance of his Communist allegiance, which is made explicit throughout the film? Is he simply meant to be a violent crank, and, if so, why build a movie around him? Shiray, who insisted that the movie had no political overtones and that the Dayan character was simply "anti-establishment," seemed annoyed that the audience raised these questions. "Let me tell you something about Jerusalem audiences," he said, and launched into a diatribe about how he had screened the film around the country and that Jerusalem audiences were the most critical, particularly compared to those in Haifa or Beersheba, where people were able to "enjoy aspects of the movie, maybe they didn't think it was perfect, but they could say, 'I liked that character' or 'I liked this part of it.' " Apparently, he felt that the true problem with this Jerusalem audience was that its members were confused by the film and were willing to say so. In any case, perhaps Shiray will have a hit on his hands everywhere outside Jerusalem, but he might want to think first before he lectures Jerusalem audiences on their lack of openness. As a frequent moviegoer in this city, I can say with complete accuracy that the one theater I worry about finding a seat in is the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Its screening rooms fill up for some of the most obscure movies imaginable and any kind of festival or special program tends to sell out way in advance. At commercial theaters here, I am frequently one of just a handful of viewers in a nearly empty screening room where a Hollywood production is being shown. Mr. Shiray, please understand that in Jerusalem, it's SRO for the best of Sri Lankan cinema, New Wave classics from the Sixties, independent American films, or, for that matter, for premiere screenings of unheralded recent Israeli films. Criticize us if you wish, but you can't say we're not open-minded. TONIGHT, IN A BIT of enjoyable programming that Shiray might appreciate, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is holding a marathon on the theme, "Small-Time Crooks," starting at 10 p.m., with the films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Robert Downey Jr. as a criminal who gets cast in a Hollywood crime drama; The Matador, with Pierce Brosnan as an over-the-hill hit man; and The Cooler, with William H. Macy as a man employed by a casino to bring bad luck to all around him. Paradise Now, a feature film about two Palestinian suicide bombers planning an attack in Tel Aviv, caused controversy around the world, and now a new film showing at Cannes focuses on a suicide bomber - a female one. Russian director Julia Loktev's Day Night Day Night is the story of a woman's preparations to bomb Times Square and the film will be shown as part of the Director's Fortnight, a special program at Cannes that highlights the work of younger, less established directors. This is the first fiction film for Loktev, who is known as a director of documentaries. According to the festival Website, the bomber speaks unaccented English and it isn't clear which group she is affiliated with.