Monday, September 21, 2015

DVD debut -- and one of the year's best -- Granit and Maymon's THE FAREWELL PARTY

Treading that fine line -- between comedy and tragedy, smiles and sadness, the must-be-said-yet-can't-be-spoken -- about as well as any movie you'll have seen, the award-winning Israeli film THE FAREWELL PARTY makes its DVD debut tomorrow. If you missed its theatrical run, do yourself a favor and rent or even purchase the disc (yes, it's that special: the kind of movie you'll want to share with friends), Taking place in what looks like the Israeli equivalent of one of our American "senior communities," the film confronts end-of-life situations and what might be called mercy killing with great depth, honesty, strength and humour. The best thing I can say about this film is that it never betrays nor cheapens its very difficult subject.

Co-written and co-directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon (pictured above, with Ms Maymon on the right), the movie comes to immediate and vital life (and stays there) based on the terrific set of characters the filmmakers have created, together with the fine actors who embody them with remarkable ease and perspicacity. Led by award-winning actor Ze'ev Revach (foreground below) and Levana Finkelshtein (background below), the actors create a delightful, surprising, moving ensemble.

How to end one's life with some kind of dignity and choice is a question that takes on ever more importance as we age and wither, but rather than confronting this as some kind of momentous horror story, the filmmakers simply dive into it and let their characters do the talking, walking, laughing, learning and, yes, even changing.

Granit and Maymon understand how to create and capture on-the-fly moments that will resound without unnecessary pushing, and they've found a cast to bring these moments to life in such as way that we follow along, often laughing, where we'd never imagine going. Consequently, everything from ending one's life to sexual preference, generosity to venality, grandparents to grandchildren, lung cancer to Alzheimer's comes to the fore and proves grist for the filmmakers' smart and humane mill.

How humour bubbles up from the darkest, saddest places (without ever seeming in the least crass) is one of the miracles of this little movie. To talk about the plot would be to already give away too much, so please bear with me as I simply ask you to treat yourself to The Farewell Party.

Even if, as is the case with one of our characters here, your objections to hastening the end of life in order to end the suffering of the most painful and terminal illness are so strong as to go against your religion and/or all you believe to be paramount, take a chance and view the movie. Just like that particular objecting character, you may find by the finale that you've had a change of heart. This is thoughtful, mainstream-arthouse entertainment of the highest order.

From Samuel Goldwyn Films (theatrical distribution) and First Run Features (video release), the movie -- running just 95 minutes, in Hebrew with English subtitles -- hits the street on DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, for sale or rental. 

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