Reel Life: Flick Pix
Directed by Alain Tasma
Written by Alain Tasma and Valérie Zenatti, based on Zenatti's novel En retard pour la guerre
Produced by Thomas Anargyros and Edouard de Vésinne
France/Israel/Italy. 102 min. Not Rated in the U.S.
French/Hebrew/Italian with English subtitles
With Gaspard Ulliel, Jasmine Trinca, Anna Galiena, Michel Boujenah, Hana Laszlo, Sarah Adler, Lior Ashkenazi, Miryam Zohar, Adib Jaasan and Tzahi Grad
Seen at the 19th New York Jewish Film Festival of the Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum
Ultimatum puts us smack into the weeks of explosive tensions in Israel leading up to and during Persian Gulf War I, with Saddam threatening to rain chemical bombs onto the Israelis and sending rockets, and the Americans and allies massing and then invading Iraq.
Adapted by Valérie Zenatti, from her French novel that's not yet out in English, with director Alain Tasma, the corrosive impact of constantly carrying gas masks and running into plastic-wrapped, sealed gas rooms when the air raid sirens blare is very authentically recreated with a multi-national, inter-connected ensemble.
An attractive young immigrant couple, played by Gaspard Ulliel (the hunk from the French Strayed (Les Égarés) and A Very Long Engagement) and Jasmine Trinca (a beauty from the Italian Best of Youth (La Meglio gioventù) ) were already arguing about their relationship and his maladjustment to Israel before the war stresses exacerbated their frequent arguments and romantic reconciliations. Their youthful myopia takes sexy center stage, but that gets a bit tired compared to the strains on their gay and straight, old and young, neighbors, employers, co-workers, friends (included noted Israeli actors such as Lior Ashkenazi of Walk on Water), and all their increasingly frightened extended families throughout Israel and Europe. Everyone reverts to the cacophony, and consequent miscommunication, of their native languages.
Though it's a bit confusingly set in Jerusalem which was not hit by Scud missiles, jangled nerves are seen to compound very realistic problems like no gas masks for Arabs, a birth, food and other panic shortages. The elderly neighbor flashing back to her terror of hiding during the Holocaust was exactly parallel to a relative of mine so immobilized by flashbacks from the 1948 war that she fled the country, like several of her fictional counterparts here.
January 15, 2010
(Commentary on the Jewish women in the film.)
Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
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