Film Review: Antarctica

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Although this might not have been the intention of the filmmakers, "Antarctica" could be placed alongside commercials urging TV viewers to visit Israel. This new Israeli sex romp is a better advertisement for the country than a tourist bureau could provide -- at least for gay travelers.

Gay men who see the movie will be enticed by the attractive cast and hot sex scenes and might well decide to take their next vacation in Tel Aviv instead of Ft. Lauderdale. There's undoubtedly more to Tel Aviv than the hedonistic paradise depicted here, but in a country under constant threat of violence, sexual abandon is one understandable response.

"Antarctica" played at last summer's Outfest in a slightly raunchier version; it's been toned down to an R rating but still features lots of handsome men in steamy encounters. It should generate strong word-of-mouth in cities with large gay populations.

While the script isn't exactly a profound examination of contemporary relationships, it skims pleasingly along the surface. The movie opens with a montage in which most of the characters are introduced having sex with a libidinous dancer who will turn out to be only a minor figure in the story. It's his tricks who emerge as the main characters: a journalist, Ronen (Guy Zo-Aretz); Ronen's roommate Danny (Yiftach Mizrahi); and Omer (Tomer Ilan), a librarian who intrigues both of them.

Omer's sister Shirley (Lucy Dubinchik) is a lesbian with romantic problems of her own. As these characters and a few others circle one another, the fun of the movie is guessing which of them will end up together. Writer-director Yair Hochner cleverly sets up a lot of romantic possibilities and leaves them unresolved until the final scene. All of the performers give skillful performances, with Ilan and Zo-Aretz making the strongest impressions.

A subplot about a group of people who believe that extraterrestrials are about to land in Rabin Square seems bizarrely irrelevant, and comic relief with Omer and Shirley's mother (played by a drag queen known as Miss Laila Carry) fizzles. The musical score, including songs by Shirly Solomon, is effective.

And why is a movie about Tel Aviv titled "Antarctica"? That's just one of the charming non sequiturs in this lightweight but diverting spectacle.
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