The Zookeeper's Wife
Has many lovely and moving moments but fails to capture the many layers of this unique story, relying instead on plainly-stated metaphors.
The 30th edition of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles will present a tribute to the late Ronit Elkabetz, an astonishing actress and filmmaker who won three Ophir Awards (the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar). She died of cancer on April 19th at age 51, and her sudden passing came as a shock to audiences around the world. Two of her most acclaimed films will be screened at the festival, beginning with Eran Kolirin's 2007 gem, "The Band's Visit," about members of an Egyptian police orchestra who find themselves stranded in Israel's Negev Desert. Elkabetz plays a restaurant owner who forges a tender bond with the bandleader played by Sasson Gabai.
In his four -star review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote that Elkabetz and Gabai "bring great fondness and amusement to their characters. She is pushing middle age, he is being pushed by it. It is impossible for this night to lead to anything in their future lives. But it could lead to a night to remember. Gabai plays the bandleader as so repressed or shy or wounded that he seems closed inside himself. As we watch Elkabetz putting on a new dress for the evening and inspecting herself in the mirror, we see not vanity but hope. Throughout the evening, we note her assertion, her confidence, her easily assumed air of independence. Yet when she gazes into the man’s eyes, she sighs with regret and mentions that as a girl she loved the Omar Sharif movies that played daily on Israeli TV, but play no more."
The other film set to screen at the Israel Film Festival is 2014's masterpiece, "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem," co-directed by Elkabetz and her brother, Shlomi. Elkabetz delivers a powerhouse performance as an Israeli woman determined to divorce her husband, whose consent is required in order for her acquire freedom. Matt Zoller Seitz awarded the film four stars, hailing Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz as two of the finest filmmakers alive.
"By adopting the perspectives of different characters from one moment to the next; positioning their shots so subjectively, and with such geographical precision, [...] we feel as though we've been dropped into a new consciousness, and allowed to see through fresh eyes," wrote Seitz. "We might wonder why we're seeing a character in profile for several long seconds, or from a very low angle, or partly hidden behind another character's shoulder, and then a cut will establish who's doing the looking, and all at once we find ourselves thinking about what the information at that particular moment means to the person who's seeing and hearing it as it's being delivered."
"The Band's Visit" screens Monday, November 14th at 9:30 pm at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre, Beverly Hills. "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" screens Monday November 21st at 9:30 pm at the Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino.
The 30th edition of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles runs Wednesday, November 9th through Wednesday, November 23rd. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the official festival site.
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