12 February, 2012

AJFF: "This is Sodom" (***)

Assi Cohen stars in "This Is Sodom"
"This is Sodom" managed to shatter all sorts of box office records, going on to become Israel's highest grossing film in nearly 30 years. The film was produced out of Israeli TV hit "Eretz Nehederet," a sketch show similar to "Saturday Night Live," so it is no wonder the film's outrageous humor covers all the bases; raunch, slapstick and satire.

While "This is Sodom" would fit handily into the Monty Python catalogue, I was also reminded a bit of another recent period-piece farce, "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies." The 2006 French parody film was brought to us by "The Artist" trio of Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. "This is Sodom" certainly lacks the class that abounds in "OSS 117," but it has some surprisingly good technical merit. Both the cinematography and art direction were stronger than I anticipated. The costume design is spot on, even if that means silly wigs and gaudy robes. I guess those four surprise Ophir nominations weren't just the result of the pressure to nominate a mega-hit, like we see sometimes with the Academy.

The film isn't meant to resonate on a personal level with it's audience, but it might not sit well with many viewers. Skewering the Biblical story of Sodom, Abraham and Lot; the film also manages to portray angels as idiots and God as a lying salesman.

Israel is known for dynamic and beautiful arthouse fare, but most of their blockbusters come courtesy of Hollywood. The success of "This is Sodom" presents an opportunity for more big budget popcorn movies to be produced in Israel.

3 out of 5 stars.

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