Directed by Joseph Cedar. Starring Shlomo Bar Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Alisa Rosen, Alma Zak, Daniel Markovich Club, Access Cinema (accesscinema.ie), 106 min
We don’t have space for another moan about the vagaries of film distribution, but it remains painful to live in a world where Jack and Jill makes it into commercial cinemas and this superb Israeli film gets kicked into the underbrush. Hats off, then, to Access Cinema, which has organised a series of screenings as part of its Cinema of the Southern Mediterranean season.
Winner of best screenplay at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Joseph Cedar’s serious comedy concerns ill feelings between a father and a son, both Talmudic scholars, in contemporary Jerusalem. The grumpy unpopular Eliezer Shkolnik makes dry, uncompromising studies of the holy texts. Uriel, his livelier son, is more open to modern interpretations and secular parallels.
A misunderstanding causes further conflagrations in their relationship. A prestigious prize, intended for Eliezer, is mistakenly awarded to his father, but, when the younger man learns the truth, he refuses to see the old man disappointed.
Footnote has much to do with the unreliability of texts. Words flash across the screen. Typewriters hammer out phrases. Featuring innovative use of disconcertingly dramatic music, Cedar balances Kafkaesque paranoia with broad knockabout humour.
One scene, in which a committee of academics attempt to carry out a serious conversation in a tiny room, is worthy of Jacques Tati. Elsewhere, the film wallows in the same comic Jewish angst that made the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man so remarkable.
Other films in the Access Cinema season include On the Edge, Leïla Kilani’s acclaimed drama concerning gender politics in Tangiers; and The Repentant, the latest from the veteran Algerian director Merzak Allouache. Seek them out in Galway, Limerick and Bray.