Directed by: Amos Gitai (written by same…the which makes him an auteur or at least a raconteur, since he was evidently in some engagement of the 1973 Yom Kippur War of the same name of the title of which). Starring (?): Liron Levo, Tomer Ruso, Uri Ran, Julian Merr, Yoram Hattab.
This is the third of three flicks I caught about various Israeli wars (Lebanon about the 1982 incursion if we’ve decided to call it that; Beaufort about the 2000 invasion if that’s the word; now Kippur about the 1973 what thuh f…? since evidently the normally-prepared Israelis got caught with their sandals covered, as the Testament has it, on that one), all filmed within a few years of each other, though I cannot find a single ac-toor from one to the other, that is an Israeli who figures across the three (unless Kornbluth Halevi and Halevi Kornbluth are really the same guy…). Dunno what that means. Perhaps that these things are all filmed as therapy by which individuals exorcize personal memory and not as art, since for the most part, they’re not entertaining and, in the case of this one at least, not what I’d call good cinema: Reenactment about the best I can do for it, allthemoreso since the characters on screen seem to have the same names as the vedettes and possibly doing what they did back when. With such a small precinct and so small a population and such perdurable recollection, hardly seems necessary to remind Israel of her conflicts or, in view of the reiteration of same, the likelihood of another.
Sadly, though it may be only the perception of a Gringo dummy here, since most young Israelis have dark hair, dark eyes, three-day stubble (acquired at birth apparently), it’s hard to tell the soldiers apart since they seem to have in this scenario virtually the same personality, that is to say… none. The anonymity of the soldierly caste? Facelessness of battle? Intertcrossransmutability of identity? The ant in the iron filings? The only distinguishable figure here is the doctor, Klauzner, whom you can mark by his Drew Carey glasses and paunch, fruit doubtless of the strain imposed by medical studies where you squint at those little vesicle thingies and memorize arcane Latin terms for, like, regular stuff (sputum < Latin, sputum; mucus < Latin, mucus; anus < Latin anus; pus < Latin pusus and on and on).
For the most part, no women, a shame since most of us can still remember fondly Senta Berger in (and out of) her regulation short-shorts (and just who designed that uniform for Hagganah fee-males?) from Cast a Giant Shadow (poor thing bulked up later and had to be strapped into a specially made cantilevered bathing suit for To Catch a Thief, thus is the glory of flesh fleeting) though Yoram (unless he’s the one gets killed, or Tomer if he isn’t) straggles home (drives home, actually, for such is the nature of this war—the breadth of Israel, the proximity of her foreign borders—that the reservists drive to the combat zone, park the Sentra, then shuttle back home after) to find his (short-shorted) wife doing yoga, an engagement that prepares her if not us for the “art” scenes which enclose the action in parentheses of two limber bodies, one male, one fee-male, entwined in erotic embrace but slathered with droozly colored oil paint, the meaning of which is clearly… whaa? The Persistence of Mammary (Urf! Urf!)?
Anyhow. Asleep at the shtick, the Israelis get their butt handed them in the initial days of this war. Hastily mobilizing (after the fact, as I get it), they call up Yoram, Liron, Klauzner. These guys plop into the family see-dan and skate vaguely toward the front, missing by a whisker the deployment of their infantry unit. Oh, rats. Trained somehow as medics (stretcher-bearers, looks more like to me) they hitch up with a medivac unit and their buddy, the chopper pilot, Tomer (or t’other way around if I have the names wrong on account of everybody have curly black hair and three-day stubble). I look, listen in vain for some sort of urgency in their conduct, passion in their commitment, either toward the larger issue of menace from invading Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Mexicans and who-all else or toward the mangled, shredded bodies they hoist up, freight to the thup-thupping chopper, fly off toward a muddy aid station and salvation. Here’s where, I think, the want of cinematic art does disservice to the message: seems to be no editing, so that we splatter through the mud toward trenches strewn with the aftermath of a fight, sling a wounded guy onto a litter, hoist him on shoulders, then lug him through puddles, over logs, across fields, through rubble, beside burnt-out combat vehicles, under shattered copses of some kinda Mediterranean tree, along rushing torrents, above, beyond, down, from among, anunder and on and on… and on… almost in real time, more in documentary mode than cinema (hand-held at that), and over and over… and over. I found myself wanting to fast forward till something happen. Endless shots of some one of these guys (black curly hair tousling, dark eyes lost in stoic absorption, three-day stubble a-bristle) registering the horror (or its ultimate banality) impassively as the image hangs and hangs and hangs on the screen… and hangs. I’m ready to accept the loving caress of the camera’s dwell on these likely-repeated scenes of battle as planned and deliberate (trauma provoked by durance in battle, numbness occasioned by its insistent and relentless brutality, inability of human beings to respond after a certain exposure to… yeah, yeah, except here, clumsy Gringo I am, I can’t shake the impression the guy just plain ol’ vanilla do not know how to make a movie, or edit film at any rate).
Well, we do retrieve our buds from the muck and gore of the battlefield. But, whoa, buddy… we take a hit and go down in our Huey (flockin’ Jordanians—or one of that bunch—shoot at a medivac chopper, the skunks). Musta been a rocket, we surmise, since it spattered our guys with shrap. The doc (evidently the Israelis have enough of them to use as chase medics for helo rescue) catches one, too, and we see him, last humanitarian impulse, imploring the aid station workers to look after the others: “Yoram has a heliotropic subdural hematoma… on his butt… cough… cough… urgh…”). It’s hard to fault sincerity, intensity, the sting of actual lived trauma, maybe even lived speech (erlebte Rede), what’s at stake here. It’s just that Kippur isn’t a very good movie (does not mean it’s not worth watching, just that… well, be advised). That brings into cause the purpose of making movies, which, in the view of this scion of the fifties, is to move (motion, after all, picture) while moving (emotion), a tricky push-me-pull-you. For that, you need at the least distinguishable if not always believable (remember the willing suspension of…) characters in whose fate or from whose discomfiture we can read lessons for our own life and some sort of story, journey, discovery upon which we can embark in mind’s eye, fancying how we’d respond to obstacles and passions (those revelations and reversals Whatzis-name spoke of so long ago). Kippur is a retrieval (much like the retrieval of wounded soldiers depicted: some live, some do not… this one do not), unembellished, unencumbered by confection or creation, perhaps faithful (looks thataway to me) and for that reason if for no other useful. But not entertaining… AF
Mebbe not, but this is... pl