Classic comedy, Einstein in Israel and the Super Bowl

This week on TV.

Sallah movie (photo credit: PR)
Sallah movie
(photo credit: PR)
The Israeli Movie Channel on YES is marking a decade since death of the beloved Israeli comedy writer/director Ephraim Kishon with a special program of Kishon’s best movies.
Sallah (also known as Sallah Shabati) holds up as the best of Kishon’s films. Although it was released in 1964 – and received Israel’s first Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film – it is as bitingly funny now as when it was first came out. In fact, in certain ways so little has changed here, that anyone who really wants to understand what is going on in Israel today would be well advised to watch Sallah until he or she can understand every reference.
The satiric movie plays with cultural stereotypes and stars a 29-year-old Chaim Topol, looking and sounding much older as the titular patriarch of a just-arrived Mizrahi family (when the movie was released, The New York Times review referred to them as “Oriental Jews”). Promised a great deal from the Israeli authorities but given very little, Sallah and his family end up in a transit camp near a kibbutz. There, Sallah uses his wits to do what he can for his family. My favorite sequence is when the members of various political parties come to the transit camp to try to convince the residents to vote for them in the upcoming elections.
Sallah can’t decide which party to choose – they are all offering him various deals involving money and housing. When he learns – to his great bafflement – that the elections use secret ballots, he simply agrees to vote for all the parties.
The movie features a great supporting cast, including Arik Einstein as the kibbutznik who falls for Sallah’s gorgeous daughter, Habbubah (the recently deceased Geula Nuni) and Gila Almagor as the kibbutz social worker who pairs up with Sallah’s son.
Sallah is showing on Saturday at 10 p.m.
Kishon’s most famous film, though, and the one that scores high on polls of favorite Israeli movies of all time, is The Policeman (1970), also known as Hashoter Azulai. This Oscarnominated film has a famous theme song by Ehud Manor and Nurit Hirsch (if you heard, you would probably be able to hum it) and features Shaike Ophir (the actor from whom the Ophir Awards get their name) as a cop who is the only honest man in Jaffa. It’s a charming movie, but a bit dated, and there is a lot of plot, as the bad guys run around, frantic to steal as much as they can under Officer Azulai’s nose before he retires. It’s showing on Friday night at 10 p.m.
The rest of the Kishon program includes Blaumilch Canal (Te’alat Blaumich), a 1969 satire of Israeli bureaucracy, about a man who drills randomly on Tel Aviv streets, which will be shown on Friday at 6:10 p.m.; Shaike Ophir also stars in the 1978 The Fox in the Chicken Coop, a fish-outof- water comedy about an Israeli politician in Switzerland, which will be shown on Friday at 7:45 p.m.; a special in which the comedy trio Hagashash Hahiver perform skits by Kishon on Friday at 9:20 p.m.; and Ervinka, a 1967 comedy about a guy who would now be called a slacker, played by Topol, on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
Cellcom TV entered the market this month, with a package of VOD featuring all kinds of series, movies and children’s shows for NIS 99 per month. Now they are adding a further enticement to sign up, one which is likely to appeal to Americans in Israel: They are broadcasting the Super Bowl live on 12:30 a.m. Israel time on February 2. The Seattle Seahawks will take on the New England Patriots, and the halftime show will feature Lenny Kravitz and Katy Perry.
Albert Einstein visited Palestine in 1923, and a documentary that will be broadcast as part of the Real Story series on Channel 1 on February 3 at 9 p.m. chronicles that visit and Einstein’s subsequent relationship with Israel.