Foul Gesture



San Sebastian International Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Israeli director Tnuah Meguna, whose first feature "Giraffes" (2001) was well-received, returns with a clever fable about how the small man can stand up to a bully and win. However, he seems to fence-sit on the issue of whether the resulting violence is justified. "Foul Gesture" could make inroads in U.S. and other English-speaking art houses, its appeal lying in a well-told version of David vs. Goliath.

This is a story about a week in the life of Michael Klienhouse (Gal Zaid), an out-of-work writer, who gets into traffic accident with a shady, gangster Dreyfus (Asher Tsarfati), who seems to have even the police in his pay. Klienhouse opts not to be intimidated and in the process wins back the respect of his wife and even saves his marriage. The (literally) explosive end saves the film that plods at times while touching on a recurrent theme about violence in Meguna's film.

The story takes place in a country where air raid sirens make everyone stop to remember those who perished in the Holocaust and soldiers who fell in the wars for independence. The film also has an ironic take on the cynical way some Israelis exploit the Palestinian conflict: Michael's cousin Chasmonai (Asher Tsarfati) sells Israeli flags to the Palestinians so they can burn them. "They will burn well," he tells one Palestinian buyer.

Michael is first portrayed as an out-of-work writer with all the hallmarks of a loser as we see him lazing about his house. Zaid transforms his character, showing Michael is a man with inner steel. First he scratches Dreyfus'car. Then he confronts the gangster in a scene that ripples with tension. Zaid, who is also co-wrote the screenplay with Ya'acov Ayaly, not only turns in a good performance as an actor but the dialogue, particularly in this barroom scene, can leave hairs standing on the back of your neck.

The movie wallows in moral ambivalence though. Michael is involved in a routine car crash, then decides to buy a gun and finally invests in a bazooka. The hero may come out winner, but does Meguna want to say anything about this? Perhaps he intends to make a comment on the politics that dominate his country but this is never clear.

Tnuah Meguna Ltd.
Director: Tzahi Grad
Writers: Ya'acov Ayaly, Gal Zaid
Director of photography: Shai Goldman
Music: Karni Postel, David Klemes
Editing: Moris Ben Mayor
Michael: Gal Zaid
Tamar: Keren Mor
Dreyfus: Asher Tsarfati
Chasmonai: Ya'acov Ayaly
Arcadia: Ania Bukshtein
David: Tal Grushka
Running time -- 95 minutes
No MPAA rating