24 March, 2012

AJFF Review bundle: "Free Men" (***1/2), "Restoration" (****1/2), "2 Night" (***)

Tahar Rahim and Louna Klanit star in "Free Men"
"Free Men" possesses both the same star, Tahar Rahim, and the same firm atmosphere as Jacques Audiard's 2009 film "A Prophet," but little else. Beautifully set and shot, the film only really suffers from too little in terms of subplot. With a little more editing and some of the fat trimmed, this wouldn't have been much of a problem, as the story and the actors are well worth your time. Rahim and Michael Lonsdale, who was one of my favorite parts about Steven Spielberg's magnificent "Munich," are exceptional. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

"Restoration" and "2 Night" after the jump.

Sasson Gabai and Henry David star in "Restoration"
As if I needed to talk any more about how strong Israeli cinema has been in the last decade, here I am granted another perfect opportunity. "Restoration" is assuredly one of the most beautiful films to come out of Israel recently. Lensed with an antique stain, the film's visuals are a perfect match for the story. Sasson Gabai gives the best performance I've seen so far in 2012 (and likely to stay towards the top of the list), but is kept in good company by his younger costars, Sarah Adler and Henry David. Composer Avi Belleli, who also scored the music I loved so much in "My Lovely Sister," gives us an incredible soundtrack. Whereas films like "The Human Resources Manager" and "Intimate Grammar" straddled the line between Israel's arthouse scene and a broader cinema appeal, "Restoration" fits snugly into the arthouse designation. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Keren Berger and Yaron Brovinsky star in "2 Night"
"2 Night" starts off a bit like a Disaronno commercial, with a trendy Tel-Aviv nightclub setting and a dark, sienna pallet. The film progresses into somewhat of an acting showcase for stars Keren Berger, an Ophir nominee for the film, and Yaron Brovinsky, a co-writer. The adorable Berger does most of the heavy lifting for at least two thirds of the film, but Brovinsky does get some time to shine at the end. The complicated chemistry is the result of thoughtful writing and acting, but doesn't necessarily keep your focus fixed. Overall, a unique but not unforgettable romantic comedy character study. 3 out of 5 stars.

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