Venue: Jackson Hole Film Festival
Israeli films have come of age recently, with such expert entries as “The Band's Visit” and “Beaufort” stirring audiences. Now one of the best Israeli films of recent years, “The Secrets,” has been making the rounds on the festival circuit. It recently won the award for best feature at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. With Fanny Ardant heading an excellent cast, the film is an emotionally overpowering drama that will move audiences wherever it plays. The only obstacle is distributor resistance to foreign language films in the U.S. marketplace.
The great thing about Avi Nesher's film is the rich gallery of characters on display. Naomi (Ania Bokstein) persuades her father, a stern but loving rabbi, to send her to a seminary for female students in the picturesque town of Safed. Naomi is intelligent but traditional, and her beliefs are put to the test by several of her fellow students, especially the headstrong, irreverent Michelle (Michal Shtamler), and by Anouk (Ardant), a mysterious French woman who has recently been released from prison. Naomi and Michelle agree to bring food to Anouk, who is in failing health, and they try to learn what motivated her to leave her family for an Israeli lover. While discovering something about forbidden passion, they plunge into a dangerous love affair of their own.
The film's mix of sensuality and spirituality is arresting, and “Secrets” encompasses sly humor as well as searing tragedy. Both of the young actresses are luminous. Ardant gives one of her strongest performances as a woman overwhelmed with regrets yet unwilling to apologize for the passion that destroyed her. Special mention should also be given to Adir Miller as a klezmer musician who woos Michelle and proves to have depths of wit and wisdom that his nebbishy appearance belies.
Nesher makes the most of the exotic locations, and while the film takes its time in weaving together the multiple story strands, it builds to a shattering conclusion.
Production companies: Artomas Communications, Metro Communications, Tu Vas Voir Productions. Cast: Fanny Ardant, Ania Bokstein, Michal Shtamler, Adir Miller, Guri Alfi, Talli Oren, Dana Ivgy. Director: Avi Nesher. Screenwriters: Avi Nesher, Hadar Galron. Executive producers: Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Sharon Harel, Edgard Tenenbaum, Andre Malignac. Producers: Avi Nesher, David Silber. Director of photography: Michel Abramowicz. Production designer: Yoram Shayer. Music: Daniel Salomon. Costume designer: Inbal Shuki. Editor: Isaac Sehayek. Sales agent: The Little Film Company.
No MPAA rating, 120 minutes.