Saturday, November 29, 2014

Talya Lavie's Israeli box-office hit ZERO MOTIVATION opens at New York's Film Forum

You don't have to be Israeli to enjoy ZERO MOTIVATION, the randy, raucous, rabble-rousing comedy about the Israeli military (women's division) that opens this coming week, but being steeped in Israeli culture probably helps one to fully appreciate this film. The half-dozen or so characters we meet and spend some "quality" time with, including one especially deceptive male, have various degrees of motivation (toward quite different goals) but their bizarre appeal and utterly quirky humor is almost never in doubt.

As written and directed by filmmaker Talya Lavie (shown at left), who I am guessing based this somewhat on her own experience and that of other women she knew (doesn't almost every Israeli man and woman spend some time in the military?), the movie commands our attention almost as much for its strangeness as for its entertainment. And, trust me, there is plenty here of both. The several young women we meet who are fast friends (except when they're not) and will seem to do just about anything to get out of doing real work, represent, I guess, a cross section of Israeli womanhood.

That these young ladies are in the military would seem to underscore the fact that military service, no matter where in the world it is taking place, is a somehow crazy and pointless endeavor -- full of its special rules and regulations that became their own raison d'être and do not finally even matter much.

The main characters here include a girl named Daffi (who is indeed exactly that), played as resolutely pert and entitled by Nelly Tagar (above), and Zohar, a clunkier, big-boned girl with initially the least motivation of all, played most tellingly by Dana Ivgy (below, of Or and Broken Wings).

Also in the mix is a more recent emigree from Eastern Europe (shown below, applying lipstick rather too freely), who suddenly becomes the "protector" of one of our girls (before going totally bonkers).

And then there's the soldier in charge of this mess, Rama, played quite sadly and beautifully by Shani Klein,(below), a woman entirely motivated by and constantly working toward her upcoming promotion.

In fact, the only more motivated female here is the young woman we meet early on, who appears to be Daffi's replacement but, as it turns out, is something quite other. Motivation, it would seem, is the route to utter disaster. Never more so than when one of our girls decides to lose her virginity and picks someone remarkably wrong to help with this endeavor.

Ms Lavie has separated her story (rather arbitrarily, it seemed to me) into several sections: Daffi, The Virgin (and her paratrooper), the Commander, etc. At the very least, these are unnecessary, as her stories bounce off each other nicely and practically seem to tell themselves.

Funny, bizarre, and finally about friendship more than anything else, Zero Motivation is so culturally specific and original that there is no other country on earth, I think, that could have spawned this film.

From Zeitgeist Films, in Hebrew with English subtitles and running 100 minutes, the movie, after playing a number of festivals around the USA and elsewhere, opens this coming Wednesday in its U.S. theatrical debut at Film Forum in New York City, after which it will make its way around the country over the weeks and months to come. (It opens in L.A. on January 16 at Landmark's NuArt.) You can check all currently scheduled playdates by clicking here.

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