On the bland side

Itai Lev’s drama ‘Sea Salt’ lacks sting; while you can see what he's going for with actors' long stares at the camera, it doesn’t work.

'Sea Salt' 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
'Sea Salt' 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sea Salt Written and directed by Itai Lev.Hebrew title: Melach Yam Running time: 80 minutes.In Hebrew. Check with theaters for subtitle information.
A talented cast and a gorgeous location are wasted in the film Sea Salt. It’s a derivative look at the problems of the cast and crew of a film about to have its premiere at a hotel on the Dead Sea. This is the kind of film in which you have time to think about subjects other than the plot, since it isn’t terribly engaging, and you may find yourself imagining how much fun this was to make. The Dead Sea and spa look quite lovely, and the actors are extremely good looking. What a way to make a living! For the film to work, you would have to check your envy at the door and start sympathizing with their psychological torments. Movies about film crews are usually fun – think of David Mamet’s State and Main or Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night. There are moments in Sea Salt where an intriguing plot seems about to come together, but then it slides back into a soap opera level again.
The story focuses on Danni (Hen Yanni), the star of a movie that is described as controversial and is about to premiere at the lovely resort. It’s called The Twilight of Sunrise, and although it should be the climax of her career, she feels troubled. She wears a flattering bathing suit most of the time while she is feeling troubled, so at least the audience can enjoy watching her flawless face and figure while she works out her traumas. It’s her birthday, and without consulting her director boyfriend, Lior, she has invited her old friend Tamara (Liat Glick) to come. Tamara is one of those free spirits who are so much more engaging (and prevalent) in movies than in real life.
Tamara was Lior’s girlfriend, then suddenly disappeared. All that is on Danni’s mind is seeing her again.
After she left, Danni and Lior became a couple and Danni thinks she may be pregnant. Lior is upset that Danni has invited this woman from their past, thinking that his feelings for her may threaten his relationship with Danni. That’s the basic plot, and it all depends on the audience’s really caring how this triangle turns out, which we don’t.
There is a lot of suspense around what will happen when Tamara arrives, and Liat Glick, although she is a fine actress, can’t make enough impact to salvage the shaky plot.
There are some scenes of a kind of lesbian flirtation between her and Danni, including one in which they take spa treatments topless, which will engage a certain portion of the audience. As the story progresses, it all climaxes in a wild party, in which the main characters get drunk and take Ecstasy. While it may be fun to get drunk and take Ecstasy, it isn’t much fun to watch people do these things. And although the film isn’t long, you may find yourself restless and itching for a drink of your own.
Yiftach Klein, who went on to star in the acclaimed film Policeman, steals the show as the hotel’s manager, who pokes his nose into everyone’s business and has a few issues of his own. His often comic presence suggests what the movie could have been had it been conceived with more of a sense of humor and less pretension.
While you can see what director Itai Lev was going for – a mixture of psychological dramas such as Bergman’s Persona and Antonioni films like Blow-Up in which characters stare meaningfully at the camera – it doesn’t work. Lev made the well-received film Little Heroes, about a group of outcast children going on a trip, that showed he has a talent for storytelling. He also made the acclaimed documentary Belfast Blues.
Sea Salt simply isn’t his finest hour.