Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Israeli writer/director Itay Tal's film debut, GOD OF THE PIANO, hits virtual theaters

In the annals of non-heroines who are cold and controlling, TrustMovies would place Anat, the musician mother at the heart (if one can even use that word without grimacing) of the new Israeli film GOD OF THE PIANO at the top of the list. Whew. This is one horrendous woman. And yet so quietly, effortlessly does Anat seem to move ahead with her plan to turn her "offspring" into a crack classical pianist and composer that the viewer simply hangs on, frightened and mesmerized, as one might be by an approaching lion, tiger or undulating Cobra.

God of the Piano is the first full-length feature from Israeli writer/director Itay Tal (shown at right), and it is a humdinger of a nasty character study that proves all too believable -- except perhaps for the initial surprise the movie springs upon us. (Come on: Could it be that easy to achieve, with no one even suspecting or questioning this? If so, this does say much good about hospital procedures in Israel.) Still, it is the hook that makes the remainder of the film possible so, sure, we must go along with it.

Mr. Tal's style is relatively serene and unshowy (given all that goes on here), as is that of his leading lady, Naama Preis, an actress new to my view. Ms Preis (on poster, top, and above) is highly focused on each move she must make and every weapon in her arsenal -- which including using family, friends, deception and absolute rigor to achieve her ends. Why this is so important -- making certain that her son becomes a famous pianist -- is never explained. It is simply an obsession. Yet anyone who has ever been close to another person's obsession will probably agree that crazy behavior can be all too credible.

From the outset, as Anat is either giving a concert or perhaps auditioning for something, it appears that -- from the pressure, fear, or some sort of emotion going on -- she urinates even as she plays. No, it's something else entirely. And this is but the first of a number of times that the movie and its lead character appear to be doing one thing but instead are doing quite another.

In months and then years, we flash ahead to watch, as her son (newcomer Andy Levi, above, right) works hard as both pianist and composer, her marriage grows rockier and her extended family fractures, even as it appears that what she has done early on has now come back to haunt her. The filmmaker and his star never over-explain, and this may annoy some viewers. I prefer it that way. Give me just enough information and let me arrive at my own conclusions. 

See what you think, as God of the Piano opens in virtual theaters later this week. Whatever you finally decide, you will not, I expect, be bored. Here is another small movie from the troubled state of Israel that, as so many other Israeli films have done, in its own special way and perhaps without at all meaning to, discovers the national character in the specifics of a torn and disturbed individual.

From Film Movement, in Hebrew with English subtitles and running but 80 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, September 18, in limited release in virtual theatres nationwide. Click here then click on THEATERS in the task bar to find one (virtually) near you.

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