While Netflix has presented many Israeli series, it has shown many fewer Israeli feature films, so the rollout of Avi Nesher’s Image of Victory on the streaming platform in Israel and the US is something of an event.
While Image of Victory, an antiwar epic set during the War of Independence, which follows the true stories of an Egyptian photojournalist (Amir Khoury) sent to the front lines to record newsreel footage of what King Farouk was sure would be an Egyptian triumph, and the Jewish residents of a kibbutz near the Egyptian border, should ideally be seen on the big screen, but it still plays well at home.
Khoury and Joy Rieger, who plays Mira Ben Ari, a young mother who stayed behind to fight the Egyptians but sent her young son away, are actors who are both well known for their television work. Khoury was a regular on Charlie Golf One, also known as Combat Medics and Taagad, and had a key role in the British remake of The Little Drummer Girl, as well as playing Samir on the second season of Fauda.
Television audiences will remember Rieger as the young female soldier who heads into danger to find her lover on the Yom Kippur War series, Valley of Tears, but she has appeared on a number of other television series, among them Johnny and the Knights of the Galilee (a.k.a. Milk and Honey), the Israeli version of The Greenhouse and the musical series, Back on Track.
Most of the young cast of Image of Victory have made their mark on the small screen, including Elisha Banai (Fullmoon), Ala Dakka (Fauda) and Neta Roth (Palmach). Although it was released to critical acclaim and healthy ticket sales, it did not reach the audience it would have had it not come out during the pandemic. The truth is that in spite of the drawbacks of seeing a movie on the small screen, the Netflix release will allow this beautifully made drama to reach millions more than it would at the arthouse theaters in the United States that still play movies with subtitles. If it succeeds, we can expect to see many more Israeli feature films on Netflix.
Only Murders in the Building
MOST TRANSPLANTED New Yorkers will definitely enjoy the real-estate gallows humor that is at the core of Only Murders in the Building, a series now available in Israel on Disney+. It’s an offbeat comic show with a dark sensibility about three loners who come together when one of their neighbors is killed. They hope both to solve the mystery but to also reinvent themselves by telling the story in a podcast they hope will go viral. The twist is that the three all have secrets to hide, some of which are directly connected to the killing, so while they look into the murder, they have to investigate each other as well and they don’t know whom they can trust.
It was co-created by Steve Martin, who stars in it as an actor living off his money and his reputation from a stereotypical crime TV show in which he played a quirky detective. He teams up with Oliver (Martin Short, an actor I didn’t realize I was missing until I saw him again here), a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer who is about to lose his apartment in the tony Anconia building where the series is set, an amalgam of the Ansonia, the Apthorp, the Dakota, the Belnord and other famous New York buildings. Selena Gomez plays Mabel, an aimless young woman who is living in her aunt’s apartment and grew up visiting the Anconia often as a child.
The series plays with our fascination with true crime, as well as the characters’ need to use a tragic event to make their mark financially and professionally. The characters are very appealing and the show is suspenseful, so it’s no surprise it received many Emmy nominations. The title refers to their temptation to include other murders and their decision to stick to killings that happen in their building.
It used to be that to make a quality drama, all you had to do was take a Jane Austen novel off the shelf and adapt it for the screen, but the new Netflix movie, Persuasion, is a rare Austen-inspired misfire. Dakota Johnson looks nice in the role of Anne Elliot, a young woman who let her true love go years ago because he was not from the right background and has carried a torch for him ever since, but she and the script play everything if it were an episode of Sex and the City set in early 19th century England.
There is nothing wrong with shaking things up a bit and many of the updated Austen movies, such as Clueless (a contemporary reworking of Emma), have worked well, but this just falls flat. You feel the false notes from the very first minutes as Johnson swigs wine right out of the bottle to show her misery. Nothing quite works, in spite of a fine cast that includes Richard E. Grant as Anne’s father, an unrepentant defender of the status quo who finds the idea of earning one’s living repugnant.