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10.08.08

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Phaedra

Jellyfish

One disc; Zeitgeist; $29.99

Reviewed by Richard von Busack


Three women interact in Tel Aviv: a pretty, 20ish waitress named Batia (Sarah Adler), a bride with a broken leg (Noa Knoller) and a Filipina guest worker, Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre), who is pining for her child overseas. Batia finds another friend: a mute, mysterious 5-year-old girl in a bathing suit and carrying a donut-shaped pool float. This lost child might have been too much like the dancing baby in Ally McBeal, but the role is unsweetened by Niokol Leiman. If she's like a red-haired sea nymph, she's also a little like a goblin. When she runs off, the general description of her is that "she has sad eyes"—pretty useless in a film where everyone does. So many movies try to get into the collisions and coincidences of city life, the little nicks and abrasions we inflict on one another. For every Slacker, there are too many films that imagine that the Big Web of Connection is more about duty than beauty. This Camera D'Or winner by Israel's Etgar Keret and his partner, Shira Geffen, is consistently funny, both ha-ha and peculiar, but it never feels slight or attenuated. The actors get in fairly deep; they express the attractions, the push and pull, of Israeli urban life. The film's version of Tel Aviv is a place where everyone is a natural, dry comedian, with a great gift for denial and a salesman's ability to turn around any complaint. Christopher Bowen's watery ambient music adds extra polish to this comedy of decay and regeneration. The DVD includes a 20-minute interview with Geffen and Keret and footage of their big win at Cannes. The interview is a bit vague: Geffen is a wary artist with uncertain English, and she drops out for some of the questions. Keret turns out to be the plot man. He reveals that one of the secrets of the film was getting the actors to turn down the flamboyant mannerisms so common in Israeli acting.

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