Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2022 8:23 pm 
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Life is unfair, but you get second chances

The setting of Karaoke is a beautiful apartment building in Tel Aviv, which affords views of other similar buildings around it that shimmer around it at night. The glass lobby is filled with sleek, lush looking plants, elegant but not too ostentatious. The couple in question, Meir and Tova, whose lives need an adrenalin rush, live in the same building as the glamorous Itzik; he's just higher up.

Really, is karaoke the medium of the ultimate mature swinger, a man with a penthouse apartment in a beautiful Tel Aviv apartment house, and a silver Maserati? Well, Israel is a sheltered (or more accurately barricaded) little country. . . But this oddity does not detract from the perception of Moshe Rosenthal's memorable feature debut. And ultimately we learn about the shallowness of this man's world, the emptiness of its glamour.

It's not fair, either: Lior Ashkenazi, the very well known actor who plays Izik is 53, and Sasson Gabay, who plays Meir, is 21 years older. Who cannot seem cooler and more of a swinger when they're that much younger, even if in their fifties? But they, like Rita Shukrun's Tova, are interesting to watch. We drink them in, their wrinkles and their edge. We study those faces to see what's there.

Despite some writers' assessment that Gabay comes off as a meek loser, this is not true. There's a dry sarcasm about him from the first. Confidence when he explains to his wife simply that a Maserati is "auto tova," "a nice car." He's not that impressed. Deep down, he's a mensch. But he has to find his inner mensch, which he does. That is the story of this film. It's about confidence. Not letting them get to you. It takes a while. True, Meir is seduced by Itzik's looks, his flash, his apparent charisma. But then Meir finds out he's been foolish. Itzik is just facade, and worse than that, he uses people, and undermines them, spoiling Tova's sexy Greek dancing that she's done just for him, suggesting Meir's life is paltry compared to his, as if a promoter is more important than a teacher

Karoake is a simple, in a way superficial film; there many other Israeli films whose social and psychological portraiture is richer than this. Nonetheless Rosenthal gets at self-worth in a penetrating way. This is like one of Hemingway's short stories where a man risks all to prove himself. There are such moments of truth. And they make wonderful, scintillating drama. I'd say Karaoke punches above it's apparent weight - but scores.

Karaoke, 103 mins., debuted at Tribeca Jun. 15, 2022. It will show at Jerusalem in July and was screened for this review at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival where it was the opening night film, Jul. 21, 2022.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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