Footnote (Hearat Shulayim)

Having won the best screenplay award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and also receiving one of the nine nominations for the 2012 best foreign language film Oscar this movie has a lot to live up to, and it does.

I saw this film on the same day as I saw Yellow Sea (see below) and on the face of it they are two very different films; one fast moving and the other sedate, one violent and the other academic but behind it all they both deal with a man searching for something that eludes him and dealing with the loss he faces.  There’s also a certain parallel with Margin Call (see below also) but I’ll discuss that later.

The background to the film is one of personal and professional rivalries. Written and directed by Joseph Cedar (Beaufort 2007) the story unfolds within the academic world of the Hebrew University’s Talmud department. Professor Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba) is a published and respected philologist who 20 years ago was pipped to the post on the publication of a ground breaking piece of research by a rival who is now the chair of a prestigious national awards committee.  The rivalry means that over the years Eliezer has been passed over for many awards and promotions. So much so that he has become an outspoken critic of the primary awards and those who have won them in recent years. To complicate matters his son is also a respected Talmud scholar and as of the opening of the film, a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences, another one of those honours denied his father.

Eliezer has a permanent grudge which everybody including his son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) must live with. It looks like all of the old wrongs are about to be undone when Eliezer is phoned by the Ministry of Education and told he has been awarded the Israel Prize for his work. Or has he? His son is called in to the Ministry to meet with some officials and a number of professors from the selection committee only to be told that he is to be awarded the Prize and not his father, there was a mistake which lead to his father been called. After much heated discussion Uriel agrees to a scheme which allows his father to receive the prize at his cost. This act of generousity is complicated by his father giving a very blunt interview to a newspaper which essentially rubbishes his son’s field of work. What follows is a comedy of errors which is further stepped up a notch when his father the philologist notices the wording in some documents is characteristic of his son’s writing and begins to put the pieces together.

I mentioned Margin Call earlier, both films are built around the personal, human interactions  and relationships in a world which many of us would not readily identify with or have an affinity for. Like Margin Call this potentially off-putting background is overcome by an excellent script and some quite excellent delivery. Dreams denied, father/son tensions and professional jealousies are all nothing new to cinema but the subject matter is well packaged and delivered to the audience.

Rating 8/10, well worth seeing for its understated humour.

Amador

After watching this 2010 work from Fernando León de Aranoa my biggest question is; is this a drama or black comedy. The Movie is based around a young South American immigrant called Marcella (Magaly Solier) who is struggling to stay on top of all of her troubles. The movie opens with Marcela writing a note to her boyfriend telling him she is leaving to go back home, however she does not get far as she faints at the bus stop and subsequently finds out she is pregnant so she turns around and goes back to her apartment in order to ensure the child has a father.  Marcela keeps her issues to herself and when the father of the child notices she has put on weight she just agrees with him.

Events continue to go downhill from there. Her boyfriend sells flowers which he and others pilfer from the skips of a flower processing establishment. He sorts stores and bunches the flowers at their apartment. The home fridge is used to store them and when this fails they have to buy a new fridge, something they cannot afford. In order to pay for the fridge, Marcela takes a job looking after an elderly bed-bound gentleman, Amador, played by Celso Bugallo (The Sea Inside 2004). The working relationship looks like it might be strained at first but they get find each other’s  level and get on. He may be confined to bed but Amador is not beyond enjoying life as the weekly visits by a prostitute, Puri,  who is almost as elderly as him, played by Fanny de Castro ( Volver 2006), demonstrate to all.

Just as it looks like this job might be the answer to her prayers and that things might start to work out events both with Amador and at home soon almost become unbearable. Through faith, fate and a little help from her new friend Puri however, there might be a way out, but it can only be for a short while as she looks to an overall solution to her problem.

Overall the production holds up fairly well, we can empathise with Marcela’s character. If there is a weakness it is that for a while the plot seems to float a little aimlessly but it soon recovers and we again find we are able to follow how the movie is progressing and where the plot and story line are bringing us.

A steadily moving production with overall good performances which mostly hold your attention. The supporting roles are well played and add to the piece.

Rating = 6/10