jewishfilm2012: "The Policeman"


You look at all the film festivals going on in Boston at this time and you wonder, why not spread them out a bit so we'll have some alternatives in the summer to "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "Ice Age: Continental Drift?" Be that as it may, at some point, in addition to the Independent Film Festival of Boston (April 25-May 2) and the  Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, and Transgender Festival (May 3-13), you need to reserve some time for The National Center for Jewish Film's Jewishfilm2012, which started on Wednesday and runs through April 29.

At least make a point of seeing Israeli director Nadav Lapid's "The Policeman," an icily meticulous and ultimately devastating thriller about members of an Israeli anti-terrorist unit and a group of revolutionary dilettantes.

The former are a macho bunch, as you might expect, buff, shoulder-slapping, and bonded as brothers.


Everyone seems to have the same buzz cut haircut and wear the same sunglasses, including Yaron (Yiftach Klein), whose wife is about to give birth. Undaunted by his pending parenthood, Yaron has no problem asking a fifteen-year-old waitress if she wants to touch his gun. Nonetheless, you kind of wonder if maybe these guys are trying too hard to be tough, and cracks in their gung-ho esprit start showing when they're brought up on charges of killing innocent civilians and they have to ask their comrade Ariel, who's apparently dying of a brain tumor, to take a fall for them.

As for the revolutionaries, one character sizes them up pretty well by describing them as "a bunch of children living off their parents playing with guns" (another is more blunt: "these SOBs aren't Arabs!").


That includes their narcissistic, charismatic leader, Nathanel (Michael Aloni), the son of a judge, and Shira (Yaara Pelzig), a 22-year-old poet, as beautiful and unattainable as a figure in a pre-Raphaelite painting, who lets the gang use the family penthouse as a headquarters while the folks are away on vacation.


Both sides are easy to dismiss and dislike until the tense, crushing final act, when the identity of who is the oppressed, and who the oppressor, becomes tragically ambiguous.

This is Lapid's first feature, and he demonstrates a detached but passionate control as he lets the story consolidate slowly under a surface of keenly observed detail, disclosing plot and character and underlying conflict, sometimes as simply as with a camera move, a subtle cut, or the composition of the frame. This is definitely worth fitting into your busy spring movie schedule, and it screens tomorrow (Friday) at 8:15 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts, and Sunday, April 29 at 7:15 pm at the West Newton Cinema.


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