Film review: Footnote

Footnote
Hearat Shulayim
2011
Westend Films, United King Films, Movie Plus

STARRING Shlomo Bar Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Alisa Rosen, Alma Zak, Daniel Markovich, Micah Lewesohn, Yuval Scharf, Nevo Kimchi
WRITTEN BY Joseph Cedar
PRODUCED BY David Mandil, Moshe Edery,Leon Edery
DIRECTED BY Joseph Cedar

SHOT BY Yaron Scharf
EDITED BY Einat Glaser Zarhin
MUSIC BY Amit Poznansky
DISTRIBUTED BY Sony Pictures Classics

Screened 2012-03-08

Father and son Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are card-carrying academia members and Talmud devotees, both employed as professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Eliezer is a stubborn, morose old sod whose unwillingness to compromise is the dormant envy of his son, even if the man is shunned by the community which has so generously lauded Uriel. Despite not seeming to care about the opinions of others, Eliezer has banked a lifetime’s worth of emotional chips on the receipt of the Israel Prize (he is 0 for 20 in this arena) which he would earn for his life’s work of a passionate, esoteric translation of the Jerusalem Tamlud, one for which he has never been earned more credit than that which fits into marginalia. The hammer falls when the Israel Prize committee meets with Uriel to explain that he has won the Israel Prize, but that through a most unfortunate bureaucratic snafu, Uriel’s father is under the impression that the prize will be coming to him. Oopsie! As you can imagine, Uriel is reluctant to give this news to his father, convinced the shock would destroy him, a fear in which he is unfortunately justified. Uriel examines his motives and hangups while dancing the dance of the damned with daddy.

I feel like it would be improper to criticize the film for not feeling consistent (which it absolutely is not), but certain tonal disparities made the product feel quite irreverent. At times featuring extended, quiet scenes of drama (some of which are perfectly passable), at times quirkily laying on the over-produced, utterly bombastic indy comedy scoring, at times quickly cutting through various visual minutiae, and including cute digital presentations which are at odds with anything serious, let alone that which allegedly drives these characters: spirituality. We’re asked to sympathize with these men whose priorities seem quite far out of whack and certainly not ascetic. As a straight farce, there could’ve been something here.. I find myself preferring the Coen Bros’s A Serious Man. All I can say is if your sense of proportion is primarily defined by the public praise or admonishment of your equally academic peers, yours will likely be a painful fate indeed. And here it took the Best Screenplay Award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival (there’s irony here, I’m sure) and a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the bloated Academy Awards. Lost to Iran’s A Separation, and justly so.

written by David Ashley

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