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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2022 8:12 pm 
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PINI TAVGER: MORE THAN I DESERVE (2021)

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MICHA PRUDOVSKY, YAAKOV ZADA DANIEL IN MORE THAN I DESERVE

The complicated life of a poor Ukrainian boy in Israel who wants a Bar Mitzvah

Pini Tavger is a gifted filmmaker who has honed his skills with a number of shorts, and this feature debut, which he wrote and directed, winning the best screenplay award at the Jerusalem Festival, is a vivid and intense slice of life. A boy's life. A poor boy from Ukraine who immigrated to Israel with his single mom, who's got more than one strike against him, but is a fighter. He even tackles a big bully on the soccer field of his working class neighborhood and subdues him; and, at least at first, he has jumped in as goalie and gotten high praise.

Pinchas (Micha Prudovsky) is a slight strawberry blond thirteen-year-old. The soccer boys call him "Pinkie." He sees neighborhood boys being coached for their Bar Mitzvahs and he wants in. The portrait of his mother, Tamara (Ana Dubrovitzki), isn't sympathetic. Why is the movie so hard on her? She gathers some sympathy later, but not much. She is a single mom, she works nights at a hospital, she's a lousy cook, and she is sleeping with a married man called Yossi (Udi Razzin) and it's not going to work. She and her son speak Ukrainian, but they also speak Hebrew. We don't know how long they have been in Israel but the living room has a tall pile of cartons with stuff yet unpacked.

The man giving the Bat Mitzvah preparation, who lives nearby, is Shimon (Yaakov Zada Daniel) who's a Chabadnik, the Israeli sources tell us, and he develops a personal relationship with Pinchas, teaching the boy he is named after a great Jewish hero. In a quiet way, Pinchas does well with the recitations, good at cadences because he's rather musical. But also, it develops, perhaps Shimon connects with Pinchas' outsider status, because it turns out he is recovering from an extremely dissolute youth in which he used all kinds of drugs, was an addict, was a Don Juan, and had a band. Such problems!

All this is before Shimon and Tamara start to notice each other and Shimon takes the place of Yossi. Pinchas did not like Yossi, but he can't very well like his Bat Mitzvah coach sleeping with his mother. This might seem an absurd mess of plot twists except that this movie has an easy naturalness and simplicity about its style that draws you in, even as it depresses you,. And as Pinchas, young Prudovsky has a blond, smooth, neutral coolness that is quite appealing: he has the subtle durability of the picaresque hero, or anti-hero. Since we don't see him at school we are left to assume that while it's not great for Pinchas, it's doable - or he would not have the energy left over for his attempts at entering the neighborhood soccer game.

Meanwhile Shimon's home life has emerged:. He lives with his parents. He has been told he must marry:. He won't get that synagogue position he wants unless he accepts a proper wife. But he wants a woman he loves even if he knows that is "More than I deserve." What his parents will not allow is for Shimon to shack up with Tamara: nix on that! They tell her. Yet there is time for a sequence at the sea with the three of them, Tamara diving in clothed, then Shimon and Pinchas stripping down and diving in too. There is also a sequence where the atheistic Tamara, partly loving Pinchas, partly hoping naively to please Shimon, makes an effort to go through a purification ritual and achieve a DIY Kosher kitchen. On the one hand we glimpse a fringe of makeshift Jewish orthodoxy, as it such a contradiction in terms were possible. On the other hand we see an orthodox misfit holding out for a woman he loves, recalling Akiva, the chasidic hottie protagonist of the Israeli television series "Shtisel."

We sense that Pinchas is a powerless observer of much of his own life. But even at the disenchanted end, we see that he has coping skills that won't quit. This is most of all his portrait, and it has the neat composure of a well-made short story; hence we understand why Tavger received the best screenplay award . More Than I Deserve is very, very bittersweet story of marginal Israeli life by a promising filmmaker that reminded me of Haim Tabakman's astonishing 2009 film Eyes Wide Open.

More Than I Deserve, 82 mins., debuted at Jerusalem Aug 27, 2021, winning the best screenplay prize. Tavger, who wrote and directed, has made a number of shorts on related subjects. This is his feature debut. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 15-Aug. 7, 2022.

SFJFF SHOWTIMES:
Saturday July 30, 2022
8:45 p.m.
Albany Twin
Monday August 1, 2022
12:01 a.m.
JFI Digital Screening Room


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MICHA PRUDOVSKY, ANA DUBROVITZKI IN MORE THAN I DESERVE

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┬ęChris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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