A Strange Course of Events: Cannes Review

A Strange Course of Events Cannes Directors Fortnight Still - H 2013

A Strange Course of Events Cannes Directors Fortnight Still - H 2013

The story of a dysfunctional 40-year-old unable to relate to the people around him is short on charm and narrative interest.

Director Rafael Nadjari returns to the father-son theme of "Tehilim" in the intimate, Israel-set drama, premiering in Directors' Fortnight.

A film about ordinary people doing nothing is a tricky thing, quickly numbing the audience to sleep unless the screenplay is electrifying and the actors greatly appealing. Unfortunately, neither of these is true of Rafael Nadjari’s A Strange Course of Events, which is anything but strange and eventful. Though taking place in the pretty coastal city of Haifa, it might have been set in Ohio or anyplace that has a shopping mall, its main location. Nadjari, the French director of Tehilim (another film about father-son relations which bowed in Cannes competition in 2007), seems to be treading water here when he’s not actually below the surface of this intimate, somewhat kooky family drama.

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Shaul (actor Ori Pfeffer from Apartment #5C, part of a trio of films Nadjari shot in New York) is unshaven and lost looking, introduced dozing off at the admissions desk of a hospital where he works, much to the ire of a patient’s husband. Soon the tables will be turned when he goes to Haifa to see his estranged father, Shimon (Moni Moshonov), for the first time in five years. He’s surprised to find the white-haired gent is in love with Bati (Michaela Eshet), a nice but dippy New Age maven who sells healing stones in a big shopping center where Shimon attends yoga classes. Shaul’s inability to express affection, understand the happy seniors or even interact socially with them is never explained, which is a pity because it might have fleshed out his cold, moody character. He's also unable to interact with Shimon’s dog or his own estranged wife and daughter. A brief, forced character arc brings him to the dawn of normal social contact in a quiet finale.

Told from Shaul’s POV, the script written by Nadjari and Geoffroy Grison pokes gentle fun at everybody in the film, especially the protag. When Shaul has a dizzy spell in an open-air fish market and slips on the sidewalk, his injuries are mainly psychosomatic. If the most interesting event in the film’s first hour is the installation of a new computer, his sprained ankle is the big news in the second. Hardly enough to keep the story and its silly characters alive.

The relaxing soundtrack, which would be ideal for a yoga class, slows things down further.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 21, 2013.
Production companies: Avenue B Productions, Transfax Films, Laila Films
Ori Pfeffer, Moni Moshonov, Michaela Eshet, Maya Kenig, Bethany Gorenberg
Raphael Nadjari
Raphael Nadjari, Geoffroy Grison
Producers: Caroline Bonmarchand, Marek Rozenbaum, Itai Tamir

Director of photography: Laurent Brunet
Production designer: Maha Assal
Costumes: Yam Brusilovsky

Editor: Simon Birman
Jocelyn Soubiran, Jean-Pierre Sluys
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98 minutes.