Entries tagged with “Sasson Gabai”.

The popular comedies mixed with Mediterranean melodramas got a name of their own in the Israeli cinema of the 70s: ‘bourekas movies’. ‘Bourekas’ are the local flavor of the Turkish pastries. The genre was dominant while the Israeli cinema was in its teens age, decreased in popularity with the maturity but never really died. We may find traces of it in some of the more recent successes, and with ‘Hunting Elephants’ which combines the genre with the bank robbery and the more recent ‘retired actors playing retired gangsters’ international genre, it generates a film which is at many moments very fun to watch.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt2295196/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2295196/


Much of the story actually takes place in a retirement house where two veteran fighters from the time of the underground independence movement (played by Moni Mosonov and Sasson Gabai) are joined by one of their Brit arch-enemies (and yet family to one of them, and yet a lord, and yes – Patrick Stewart) and by a teen kid in a plot to rob a bank. If the premises seem a little fantasist, I need to say that the script has the unexpected quality of making them almost credible. The old men have the passion of proving once again that their lives fit to the values they fought for in a world that changed. The Brit has his own moral and material reasons. The intellectually super-gifted kid is bullied at school and  must do something to revenge the death of his father and save the honor of his mother. There is an evil system (the banks) to fight and an evil person (the bank manager – Moshe Ivgy) to punish. All fits.


(video source unitedkingfilms)


The three lead actors are big stars of the Israeli film and stage. It’s fun to see them acting especially that some of the lines are really funny.  In many moments the film compares well with such famous international productions like ‘Space Cowboys’ in the ‘old boys’ genre. Director Reshef Levi‘s lack of experience with sustaining the pace and avoiding some repetitions and building up for the actions scenes is however felt. In a bank robbery movie the robbery scene is the key and peak of the interest. Here it is repeated – maybe by design, maybe by coincidence – without adding consistent comic or action value, more in order to justify an ending which is good to the heroes and within the limits of some morality. This does not work well, and this is the main reason the film is in my opinion not a big success but only a nice try.


‘HaMeyuheded’ (The Special, or The Special Unit) is a half-baked tentative of the Israeli TV industry to create a high quality crime drama, a genre which is extremely popular in Israel on the cable and satellite TV thanks to imports from the US and from the UK.


source http://reshet.tv/Shows/hameyuhedet/


It is certainly not easy to compete in a genre which brought to the small screen series like The Wire or Prime Suspect which are fine pieces of TV and cinema work on any scale of values, making of the  police section an universe populated by heroes which are hard to forget, and of the permanent was between the good guys and the bad guys much more than simple entertainment, action or detective riddles.  This is not because the Israeli reality would miss a large number of themes and subjects that could provide material for such successful endeavors. On the contrary, the mix of people and religions, social and political conflicts in the area , and the human mosaic of people who have roots here for centuries or even millenniums and other who came here from the four cardinal points of the world is explosive and fascinating. It is rather the limits of the Israeli TV productions, the real economic lack of means and the limits imposed by the creators themselves that prevent this series to realize its full potential.


(video source reshettv)


As in Rubicon, the American series that I watched almost in parallel and about which I will write soon in The Catcher, at the start of HaMeyuheded a new and young policeman is put as a head of a team following the sudden death of his predecessor. Also here we have a permanent mix of two story planes, the immediate cases that need to be solved in the day-to-day life of the unit and the longer thread which is impacted by the personal involvement of the head of the unit. The relations between the members of the team, each one with his own personality, all interesting and complex catch much of the attention of the viewers.



(video source  NahmanKhayet)


Here we can find the strength and the most interesting parts of HaMeyuhedet. Wonderful acting by Ofer Schechter, Shmil Ben-Ari, Gal Toren, Yael Sharoni, and Ester Rada make of each of the members of the team individual characters which are strong and difficult to forget. Sasson Gabai and Nathan Dantner borrow some of their time and talent for well conceived characters, and the rest of the distribution allows for episodic characters to show up in interesting supporting roles. All this micro-universe is nice to follow, sometimes even moving and beautiful but cannot sustain a detective series. The weak point is in the thin fabric of most of the one episode series, and in the lack of consistency in the following of the longer threads, some of which are left aside for many episodes of the season, some other left suspended with no resolution. This may be the preparation of the ground for a second season which I will certainly like to follow because the first season contained many promises, and also the last episode succeeded to bring up for once the short and long lived threads in one intrigue that was well written and contained also the so much needed percentage of suspense.

The story written by Erez Kav-El for ‘Good Morning Mr. Fidelman’ (translated in English by ‘Restoration’ at the request of the organizers of the Sundance festival) smarty gathers together in the micro-cosmos of the movie many pieces of the puzzle which is the Israeli society today. A society composed or religious people and of non-believers, of Jews coming from European and Middle-Eastern backgrounds, of tradition and modernity, of rich and poor, of locals and strangers. One of the key characters of the film is Anton, and many things remain unknown about his character. He comes from nowhere in the Southern part of Tel Aviv, the humble and vanishing neighborhood located in the shade of the high, modern and expending part of the young city and he will disappear to nowhere at the end of the film. We know little about his identity before and nothing about what will happen to him after, his past seems to be a dangerous mix of art and crime, he is the prototype of the stranger with no roots whose secrets are well hidden and whose identity gets meaning only when reflected into the souls of other. Yet during the film we shall see him earning a spiritual father, learning a new craft which is close to art, falling in love and risking with his presence to break the balance of the family and social fabric around.

(video source kviff)

Anton, the stranger becomes involved in two triangles. One may seem at first sight a traditional husband-wife-lover triangle, but the young woman is pregnant and the husband is the young and greedy finance tycoon-in-becoming who looks so much like many of the materialistic Israeli (and not only Israeli) young men today, so the conflict is not only romantic but also a social one. The second one is a father-son-spiritual son conflict, between the old Mr. Fidelman, his son and again the stranger – which actually reflects as in a mirror the relation between the father, son and partner of Fidelman, Malamud, who dies at the beginning of the story. The relation between father and son seems to be a preferred theme in recent Israeli movies, describing not only the tension between generations, between tradition and modernity, but also the one between the Israel that could have been the the country it became.


(video source pctv1)


Then we have Sasson Gabai. This wonderful actor is now beyond what can be described as stardom. He more than shines in every role he makes on screen, on stage or at TV – he lives and becomes his characters to the point that he makes them part of our lives. His Mr. Fidelman is a tough and grumpy old man whose whole universe is his antiques shop and his craftsmanship of restoring old furniture, and this universe risks to be lost when his partner dies and his son inherits the business and plans to sell it. His savior may be Anton, the stranger, who seems eager to learn the art and share with Fidelman the feelings refused by his son. Or maybe it is the old piano that may or may not be or become a piece of value which may ensure financial survival. However any of these saving acts would come at the expense of the gathering back of his broken family, and at the climax moment Fidelman will need to make the crucial decision.


script writer Erez Kav-El yesterday at the Herzlya Cinematheque


It is so refreshing for me to discover another Israeli director with a distinct voice, making of his only second big screen film such a mature, complex, and sensible piece of art. It is not a perfect one, and the rhythm of the story-telling will limit the satisfied audiences to the small art cinema theaters, but yet the hall was almost full last night at the screening at the Herzlya Cinematheque. If the saying goes true that maturity and fullness of a school of cinema is measured not in blockbusters but in the good average films, then ‘Boker Tov Adon Fidelman’ may be a good sign of maturity and fullness.

source http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1669170432/tt1787663

If elections were hold today in Israel a political party that never existed and a politician who was born only in the imagination of TV script writers and comical series directors would have good chances to exceed the minimal percentage and enter the Israeli Knesset. The name of the party is The Central Liberal Party (Hebrew acronym is MeLeL) and the politician’s name Ruby Polishuk. The Israeli electorate would not view something exceptionally new in MeLeL which is largely inspired from the liberal-secular Shinui party which about one decade ago increased dramatically it’s presence in the Israeli Knesset up to 15 mandates and entered Ariel Sharon’s government under the leadership of maverick and contested journalist Tommy Lapid, just to implode and disappear from the political scene three years later due mainly to internal conflicts. They would neither get too impressed by the idea of a mediocre politician, all but unknown to the wider public getting into the position of the minister of Social Progress, a ministry with a great name and no budget, as social progressing the weak layers of the society is a great idea in electoral slogans, but not one that gets any attention when elections are over. After all one third of the members of the Israeli Knesseth are ministers or vice-ministers, and a real Mrs. Polishuk was a MK, fact that seems to have been unknown even to the authors of the series. Polishuk is BTW a game of words with multiple meanings in Hebrew, the most obvious being the combination between politics and the Mid-Eastern open market (‘shuk’) the place of all bargains and tricks under the hot sun of the Levant.


source http://www.facebook.com/RubyPolishuk


While the first season of the series mainly followed the process where the new minister installed as a puppet and cover-up by handlers Humi Schalit (media personality Amnot Dankner in a combination of parody and homage to Tommy Lapid) and Kozo Avital (Guy Loel as the cynical media master in tune with all the political tricks and image manipulation) build the persona of the minister of the ministry with great goals and no budget, the second season that just ended takes a more serious tone and builds the portrait of the politician with a human dimension that was hard to guess previously. To a great extent this is due to the excellent acting of Sasson Gabai, one of the lead Israeli actors, but also to the smart and sensitive writing and gradual building of the character. In a country where every move of the politicians is under the permanent scrutiny of the media, with the tiny dimensions and huge contrasts of Israel it is just natural that the weaknesses of the politicians are our own weaknesses, and the tricks they play at national level are an extension of the tricks of survival that each of us play in the day-to-day life. Gabai’s Polishuk represents the corruption and lack of principles we put on the account of the politicians who lead us, but he also one of us in his mistakes. So seem to be many of the other characters around and those who followed the two seasons of the series until now may have started to care for the single mother and divorced office manager Solly Barzel (Hanna Azoulay Hasfari), for the young, ambitious and always gaffing communication manager Tkuma (Shir Gadani), for the neglected wife Monique or for other members of the staff of the minister. There is something of us in many of those and this helps us identify them as some among us.


source http://www.ynet.co.il/PicServer2/02022009/1999655/2_gd.jpg


I will not tell too much about the end of the season which is IMO simply genial, human and painful, open and making us want to see a third season come true. As with real life drama mixes into the comical thread which was dominant for most of the two seasons.



(video source TheIsraeliNetwork)


What comes next? I do not know yet if there will be a next season of ‘Polishuk’ – as a viewer I certainly wish it. Israeli viewers cannot miss making the parallel with the wonderful British comical series ‘Yes. Minister!’ which a few seasons later became ‘Yes, Prime Minister!’. In real life the liberal center melted and disappeared in Israel, and the nationalist and religious extremes are nowadays dominant. A Prime-Minister Polishuk would be almost pure fantasy relative to the reality of today’s politics, but maybe a fantasy worth enough for the Israeli voters to make a party that does not exist and a politician which was never born exceed the minimal representation percentage in the elections.