“An Israeli Love Story”

The film “Sipur Ahava Eretz Israeli” is based on a mono-drama written by Pnina Gary. It is a true love story which took place in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel. 1947 is captured well, both politically and personally. Our protagonist, Margalit, ( Adi Bielsky) is a young 18 year old, still living at home and dreaming of an acting career. Her love interest, Eli, ( Aviv Alush)  is 24 and a soldier. Eli Ben-Tzvi’s father will become the second President of Israel. Pnina Gary is now 90, and an acclaimed Israeli actress. In “An Israeli Love Story”, she is Margalit.

Margalit’s relationship with her parents, who are immigrants from the Ukraine is sweetly well-developed. She is a typical teen with flawed social planning skills, and likewise, adept at  last minute changes. Margalit thinks nothing of bringing a strange boy, who she just met home for dinner. Since, his car broke down he is offered to spend the night in one of the outbuildings. Her father sees immediately how taken she is with him. He tells his refugee stories about being with the Russians and having to blow their soup to move the worms and insects away. Margalit can not wait before sharing this with her girl friend. They laugh together about predictable parents.

Scenes with the bee hives and her father’s entrepreneurialism, as well as, her mother’s cooking show Margalit as a loving daughter, who is supported by her parents’ love. The holding of the shoulders takes on touching significance throughout the film.

Many of the camera shots have Margalit with her back to a wall. Initially, before the beginning flashback, we see and hear her reading a letter from Eli’s inconsolable mother, Rachel. When we hear of their cherished bond as lovers of Eli, we know that a sad end awaits us.

Dan Wolman’s direction plays well with metaphors of earnest action and impassioned imagination even when one seems backed against an immovable force. The tone is one of dark tranquility meshed with a call to live.

Refugees disembark in the dead of night, and Eli helps in the boat transport. Margalit sees him with a female worker and dismayed, botches her efforts to bring blankets as directed. She is inefficient at humanitarian efforts when her heart is broken. She opines dramatically to her friend, “ I don’t exist for him!” Young girls are understood by both the screenwriter and the director, here.

The cinematography is best during the courtship, which does ensue after many attempts on Margalit’s and her friend’s part. Reflections in moving bus windows of the trip to the kibbutz , and scenes in the orchard, the  hayloft, and the two on horseback  are lovely.

Major themes of war and peace are shown through the recitation of poetry. Biblical verses take on chilling revenge pronouncements: “The sword of Saul return not empty.” The humanities are shown as effective agents of social change on the more peaceful side.

Scenes where Arabs and Jews mingle and interact are shown. Ironically, trespassing boundaries cause the most contention. The herds of Bedouin sheep keep eating the kibbutz planted vegetables.

The kibbutz living is hard on Margalit. She does not like the sharing of property, whereas Eli believes that private property would ruin everything about the communal structure of the kibbutz. Eli is patient to a point with Margalit. He admits that sharing does not come naturally. Eli is committed to the kibbutz, and he tells Margalit in no uncertain terms that he is part of the people living here.

“ I am not leaving this place.” They agree to take a break to think over their commitments.

An actor in Haifa, who Margalit has admired openly after attending his play, invites her to see a favorite singer. He has predatory intentions, and she is embarrassed by her innocence in almost being duped.

Eli comes for Margalit at her parents’ home, and she is in Tel Aviv. She later goes to him and they reunite.

Preparations for Eli and Margalit’s wedding is full of embroidery, baking, cracking eggs, music and high expectations. Listening to the country by country vote on Israeli statehood is a nice touch. Over the radio we hear, “ France, yes; Greece, no; Haiti, yes; Brazil, yes; Yugoslavia, abstention ; United States, yes; etc… History is being made while the Bedouin flocks are in the fields again. When Eli and brigade leave to chase them off, Eli is cautious. They are ambushed.

Coffins and a stoic graveside scene is next. Margalit drops to her knees and is raised up by her father as he holds her shoulders to steady her.

At her theater sessions, Margalit has directed her troupe to practice again and again: not only with words, but with action. When one of her key actors was shot on patrol, the theatre troupe had asked for a break. Margalit, like a soldier, told  them that they would  carry on in the same way with the same tempo. Life would  go on. This is true as the film ends, also. Margalit is seen at the rural bus stop, ready to begin again.

“Straight Outta Compton”

The first hour of this team-written film is terrific: creativity flows down to the initial and unusual studio credits, the cast names caught on background walls, and the joy of the beat. The themes are timely:power in the form of police abuse,power in the form of art to heal. The subject matter of business-manager-sleaze and peer intimidation hits hard. The deadly sins of greed and lust for fame are held forth and can be tapped for post-viewing discussion. There is lots to celebrate and there is much to talk about,yet “Straight Outta Compton”‘s last hour and a half is repetitive and calls to be edited. It smacks of melodrama and the same exploitation it tries to portray. It takes NWA (Niggas With Attitude) too long to learn that friendship matters most.

Too many screenplay writers may be the cause for the choppy sequencing,but too many stories and characters may be the cause,too. Three out of five hip hop artists are highlighted,yet the three-stories-in-one need to be tightened. This being said,the actors are terrific and F. Gary Gray directs the large cast well. Dr. Dre Young(Corey Hawkins) is the talented “beat setter”. Dr.Dre coaches Eazy-E Wright(Jason Mitchell) in the passion needed to be felt,and Ice Cube played by Ice Cube’s real son,O’Shea Jackson,Jr. is the “word man” with the lyrics to turn pain into the power of recognition. One frightening scene has him on a school bus writing in his speckled notebook and clowning with gang signs out the window. When a car pulls in front of the bus and a real gang member enters with a gun to lecture and to brag that he kills Crimps for breakfast, we fear for our observant wordsmith.We know there are body bags in the Compton dump. We also know that the LAPD have a six-ton tank with a battery ram. Ruthlessness reigns on both sides.

Humor and “put down” dissing is fast and fun. The “boogie bands” and “dusty ass garage” slings hone in on “playing the dozens”. “The California Raisins Label” for Priority Records draws an ironic laugh. When the FBI are called in to quench what they take as a reasonably stated threat against law enforcement,we hear our rappers respond with “people lose their minds when they hear a little truth.” “F The Police” is censored from being played in Detroit. Middle fingers are held up and so are badges. Riots play out. First Amendment Rights and three-inch-gold-chain culture mingle.

The pool orgies and Cognac guzzling have too much screen time. But butt and breast oogling is balanced with a woman journalist asking one star, ” What does a guy do when he starts making money like this?” Somehow the answer of “Raider’s gear” leaves a lot to be desired. Then there are the managers. Jerry Heller played snake-like by Paul Giamatti lies about contracts and criticizes ego,excess and expectations all the while contributing to all three. In-fighting among the group and new companies started prove equally disastrous. Red devil-suited Suge Wright ( R. Marcos Taylor )spreads the greed and ugliness to new Satanic heights. With the Rodney King verdict as backdrop,”Treat people poorly and they will rise up” is applied to the “Death Row Label” Suge,too.

See this film for the music,and for the 1980-1990 history of oppression and fear, and for the rise of marginalized voices soaring, and as a critique of values that elevate the “top dog” to billboard heights.