02 March 2010

Ajami (Scandar Copti & Yaron Shandi, 2009)

I finally made it to see the Israeli nominee for Best Foreign Film today. It was really good. I've seen it described as a network narrative but I don't know that it's as sprawling as that implies. It has that puzzle out of order thing going on though and it actually ends up being pretty effective, I think. It takes place in what seems to be an Arab city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv called Jaffa. It's kind of set up into chapters and it starts off with a string of murders and a demand for blood money and there's all kind of misery and intrigue that follows. It seems pretty true to what's going on over there. It's a mess. But it's a powerful and beautiful film. Watching the movie, it's easy to empathize with most of the characters but you walk away wondering what it will take to bring about some rational decision making. The movie seemed similar to Gomorrah in parts but it ends up feeling more graceful. It's strange that a film with such an ending as it has--tragic and violent--can leave me feeling a kind of grace.

I've spent so much of the past fifteen years gorging myself on American films, sucking up everything on TCM or the Sundance/Landmark Theaters/Independent Spirit waves and now that I've started watching more contemporary world cinema, instead of fixating on those films highlighted in the Auteurs chapters of any film history textbook, I feel like a sponge desperate for news and truths from the world. In the past six months since I stopped reading books and starting binging on movies I feel like I've gained so much understanding about so many modes of existence I had never given enough thought.

It was really great. I hope you see it. A/A-

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