16 November 2014 | Barev2013
An irreverent Israeli Jaw-Dropper a la Godard
Caught this jaw dropper at the Los Angeles Israeli Film Festival of 2013. Self taught fringe filmmaker Nony Geffen stars in his own film, "Not In Tel Aviv" -- In a festival loaded with serious soul searching subjects, Geffen's way off-beat blackish comedy was a surprising change of pace. The title "Not In Tel Aviv" already serves as an alert to expect the unexpected, which this movie is from beginning to end, starting with the fact that it is shot completely in black and white and ending with no real ending. This is definitely a low-budget indie that could almost be called "underground" because of its disdain for convention, but it is not being treated with disdain by the Israeli film establishment. The Israel Film Fund (Keren Hakolnoa Yisraeli) a government organization, was one of the the film's principal backers and sent it to the prestigious Locarno film festival to represent the country there.
Plot Synopsis: The picture opens with the dismissal of a handsome young high school history teacher, Micha (Director Geffen), for unspecified reasons by a seemingly sympathetic school principal. Micha is obviously unhappy with this decision but does not protest directly and accepts his fate stoically. He gets in his car and as school is letting out kidnaps one of his teenage students, Anna, at gunpoint, but we soon realize that she does not mind getting kidnapped by him and even seems to have a little crush on her teacher. He next stops off at the home of his mother who is very ill and asks him to kill her as she no longer has any will to live. He asks Anna to fetch the .45 from the glove compartment of his car, but warns her not to run away. Don't worry, she says, I'm not running away. He then lovingly dispatches mom with a shot to the head we hear off camera, but only see Anna's face wincing slightly.
Euthanasia accomplished he takes Anna home with him but treats her like a child and rebuffs her clumsy amorous advances. Already quite comical. Whatever this guy is he is no child molester, but then, Anna is not exactly a child any longer either. He actually has the hots for a former schoolmate, Nony, who works in a Pizza parlor and wants to use Anna as a decoy to attract the more mature Nony. This almost fails because Anna lacks the "finesse" a go-between needs. Anna doesn't understand the word "finesse" but Nony is finally reeled in and comes along back to Micha's messy pad. We now have a rather quirky threesome -- all three in one bed, not nude, but hugging, and it gets whackier and whackier from there.
"Not in Tel Aviv" is laced throughout with racy dialogue pertaining to sex, but always tongue in cheek. Example: In the car the girls taunt Micha about the size of his pecker and claim they want to see it. He is embarrassed but agrees to show it to one of them only. An argument ensues between the girls, Anna claiming she has the right because she is mature and Anna is too young. Anna in the back seat says that's just why she should be the chosen one, because she's "never seen a dick in her whole life, whereas Nony has seen hundreds" ... There is no penis revelation scene, but this is typical of the casual irreverent tone of the entire flick. When Anna complains that she misses her mother Micha takes her home and mother, a pretty blonde, asks "Are you the teacher that kidnapped my daughter?" He claims it was no kidnapping, so mom invites him in to meet some people she's having over -- a meeting of a Women's Power group! Very funny scene. Micha beats a hasty retreat but Anna comes running after him to resume their strange sado-masochistic friendship ... The two girls and Micha are next seen playing two-on-one basketball. A guy on a motorbike pulls up and tries to attack Micha on grounds of sexual depredation but is overcome by the women in a furious struggle as one screwball event follows another. Eventually Nony will seduce the seemingly sexless Micha in his sleep and Anna will get very jealous and try to leave, whereupon Nony plants a passionate kiss on her mouth telling Anna that she and Micha both need her. By this time there is no telling where this is going next -- as the country music soundtrack keeps commenting slyly on the action and the plot gets more and more hairy -- round and round she goes --where she'll stop nobody knows, but i ain't gonna tell! --Except to say it was one heckuva ride and a few people were sufficiently offended to walk out -- always a good sign in a picture meant to bend people's customary frames of reference.
This film, which was shown at Locarno last summer and won a special jury prize there, has had much written about it and has divided serious trade paper critics right down the middle. One gets the impression that Geffen has seen some early Godards like "Breathless" but his take is purely his own. The pic is loaded with off-the-wall deadpan performances in what is patently meant to be a unique statementless statement in the heavily moralistic Israeli film world -- a dark gray comedy that works shamelessly well on its own absurd level. The Music, a mixture of folk, blues, funk and rock, is by Uzi Ramirez, the wildman of the Israeli Indie scene, and most of the songs are from his first album "Lick My Heart" the title alone of which, let alone the songs themselves, serves as a perfect match to Geffen's narrative style --or was it the other way around? Uzi is working on a second album and I would hope to see another Geffen opus linked to it at next year's festival.