Monday, July 30, 2012

The Matchmaker

From Israel (and two years ago, sheesh, way to distribute, peoples) comes a charming tale of coming-of-age in the summer of 1968 in Israel. Young Arik and his smartass pals encounter a strange matchmaker, and ends up directing him toward his non-existent web-fingered sister. But as it turns out, the Matchmaker, Yankele Bride was friends with his father before the war.

Though the mother is suspicious of this old...well, I'm not sure if he's actually a gypsy, but I think he's a Romanian, the father suggests that Arik work for Yankele in his matchmaking(/black market) business.

And, because this is a coming-of-age summer story, Arik's pal has a wild American cousin, Tamara, who's coming to stay for the summer.

The Boy and I agreed this was typical of the Israeli films we'd seen: The characters are strongly, sharply and interestingly drawn, to the point where you don't necessarily worry about much else. Still, the movie is excellently shot and the plot unfolds in some fascinating ways.

Yankele's a little shady, but it turns out there's a good reason for it, and not surprisingly, it goes back to the Holocaust. He has a good heart, trying to fix up difficult Israelis with a spouse that will make them happy for life. And they are difficult. His spiel goes something like:

"Let's say I get you Robert Redford, and on the way to the honeymoon, you're in a terrible car accident and his face is disfigured. Do you divorce him? Of course not..."

There are many touching moments, as Yankele tries (and fails repeatedly) to hook up the diminutive owner of the local cinema (the beautiful Bat-el Papura), to suss out the true character of a girl whose family is trying to marry her off to a prominent family, and to help out the timid librarian (Dror Keren) of Arik's school.

It is in these missions that Arik helps Yankele out, in between Yankele teaching him how to observe people. Arik gets the idea to help Meier the Librarian which exposes us to Yankele's confederate, Clara (Maya Dagan), who gently and gracefully coaxes timid men out of their shells. There's an obvious thing between Yankele and Clara, but also something very dark they share from their experiences in the camps.

One thing that struck me is that, at one point, government officials get involved, and the complete lack of sensitivity toward Holocaust survivors who might be a little skittish about ham-handed police action is a good reminder that governments are stupid, dangerous beasts, regardless of the context.

A minor point, I suppose but it stuck out to me.

Anyway, The Boy and I heartily approved. Engaging, well-crafted light drama.

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