Norman and Micha stand in a shop window looking at shoes
Norman (Richard Gere), left, with Micha (Lior Ashkenazi) in Joseph Cedar’s tragicomedy. (Courtesy/Sony Pictures Classics-Niko Tavernise)

3 Israeli directors’ films top influential LA Times critic’s picks

Three films directed by Israelis took center stage in the film listings of the Los Angeles Times’ senior critic Kenneth Turan.

In Hollywood few newspaper items are scrutinized more intensely than the film reviews and rankings in the Los Angeles Times, making Friday’s list a boon for the films and their directors.

The top spot in the “Our Movie Pick” section went to Joseph Cedar’s “Norman,” which tracks the ups, and mainly downs, of a small time New York fixer.

“Subtle, unsettling, often slyly amusing and always unexpected,” Turan wrote, adding: “This delicate, novelistic character study is what more American independent films would be like if more had thoughtful adult themes and gravitated toward nuance and complexity.”

The next Israeli pick on the list was Emil Ben-Shimon’s “The Women’s Balcony,” centering on a clash between a strict Orthodox rabbi and his more permissive congregants. Turan judged it as “an unapologetically warm-hearted comedic drama, a fine example of commercial filmmaking grounded in a persuasive knowledge of human behavior.”

Finally, a half page of the paper was devoted to Asaph Polonsky’s feature debut “One Week and a Day,” which, of all unlikely topics, focuses on a short-tempered father played by Shai Avivi, who is  sitting shiva for his son who died of cancer. The father forms an unlikely alliance with the young stoner  played by Tomer Kapon, who supplied his dead son with marijuana.

“’One Week and a Day’ keeps an impeccable balance between absurdity and sadness, comedy and heartbreak,” Turan observed. “Increasingly outrageous, but always plausible, it applies its pitiless, pitch black sense of humor to a very particular situation (i.e., sitting shiva.).”

Both Cedar and Polonsky were born in the United States, but moved to Israel with their parents at a young age.

JTA

JTA news agency