Fred Levit Reviews a New Israeli Release And the Classic, Exodus.
By Fred Levit
The Israeli Film Festival is on right now in a number of venues in and around our Shtetl. Opening the festival and scheduled to play across these venues until it concludes is a beautifully grounded, emotional ‘Kneidel-Western’ shot in Northern Israel and revolving around a rag-tag ensemble of Jewish Arab characters coming together for a once in a lifetime event.
Starring an all-star Israeli cast including Nir Levy, Adar Gold, Ishtar and Uri Gavriel the simple and linear story follows Joseph Tawila (Uri Gavriel in a poignant minimalist performance) a mysterious bearded, introverted hermit who, upon being intrigued by Amram Mufradi’s (Dudu Tassa) talents at playing the Oude and shocked at the news of his father’s illness , reveals a concealed musical scroll called “BALLAD OF THE WEEPING SPRING” and upon shaving and throwing his Oude round his shoulder begins his travels through the hamlets of Northern Israel in search of the finest musicians in the land to fulfill an old friend’s dying wish to play the piece in a local cave – a cave that bears the suppressed echoes of their past and brings back the demons that tore them apart.
To say any more would do a major disservice to the film as the many plot and sub-plot revelations throughout it conjure up many of the imperfections and emotions we take for granted, into a character study that patiently and honestly sets the stage for a dramatic and sometimes amusing look into a passionate and loving man’s eternal search for redemption through his music when one mistake brought his whole life crashing down, affecting those dear to his heart. It can not be recommended enough.
Based on Leon Uris’ world-wide best seller, adapted to the screen by post black-listed Dalton Trumbo under a pseudonym and directed by the one and only Otto Preminger (Anatomy of a Murder, Laura), this ambitious and classic 1960 epic made only 12 years after the establishment of a new state can quite seamlessly continue where Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ ended (despite the chronology of their making). Shot in beautiful Technicolor and carried emotionally by the moving and now legendary theme by Ernest Gold (you’re humming it now aren’t you?), Exodus is a story that centers around a handful of Jewish refugees against the vast backdrop of a Palestine in turmoil divided between the remnant survivors of the Holocaust, a Palestinian majority and a British empire on the brink of collapse.
The events begin with the SS Exodus ship used by the British and US Navy during war time. Now, carrying fleeing Jewish refugees from the shores of France and setting its sights on the biblical draw of golden Jerusalem, the passengers aboard the ship (much like many after it) had to contend with the forces working against them, bent on turning them away and preventing their ‘illegal’ emigration to ‘Eretz Israel’. Hungry, destitute and dying in the midst of bureaucracy while interned in another camp on Cypress while the powers that be decide on their fate, Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) from the Haganah (pre-IDF) arrives undetected to their rescue and guides his people to the promised land through the clever resources and connections at his disposal, drawing upon the many skills the British mandate taught him as Captain of the Jewish Patrol – and in doing so makes his acquaintance with Kitty (Eva Marie Saint) with whom he develops an intimate relationship when her loyalties to his cause draw them nearer.
Comprising an ensemble all-star cast including Lee J Cobb, Ralph Richardson and Sal Mineo, the fictitious characters (based on the real experiences of refugees) take us on a journey through the memories of war, the hardships of settling on the land of our birthright, through the British-Jewish incursions and to the birth of a nation, ending and reminding us that not all great endings are long lived, and that often you must fight for what you believe in (the Arab-Israeli conflict).
A must watch that will make any Zionist proud, you can catch this timeless epic on the silver screen on Wednesday 28th August at the Palace Como 7:30pm. Do not miss watching it as it was originally intended!