About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Omar and The Lunchbox go to Bethlehem

I did indeed manage to get to Omar in the week following the Oscars, if just barely, catching a 10:45 show on the Sunday morning a week following.

This was one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language movie.  It's a Palestinian film about the business relationship between a young man named Omar (would you believe!  in a movie called Omar!!) played quite fetchingly by Adam Bakri, and his Israeli handler, equally fetchingly played by Waleed F. Zuaiter.  It's tempting to look at every film that comes out of the Israeli conflict as a political statement of some or another sort, but this well made film by writer/director Hany Abu-Assad manages to make its points without every becoming polemical.  If we see the routine humiliations that Omar endures as a young Palestinian man, it's only what we do or don't bring from our other experiences that allows us to understand or not his involvement in a shooting of an Israeli soldier at a garrison, and the film can be enjoyed for how the story plays out thereafter or the quality of its performances no matter what justification you're willing to ascribe (or not) to the primary incident.  Taken in by Israeli security forces afterwards, Omar is forced to become collaborator.  It helps that saying "I will never confess" is, according to the film, considered a confession in and of itself by the Israeli military courts that govern. Torn between his Israeli handler, his love interest, his friend and competitor for his girlfriend's hand in marriage, and some of the internal politics in the occupied territories, Omar has some soul-searching and growing up to do.  It's quite a good film, and worth seeking out.

Interestingly, an Israeli film called Bethlehem opens almost simultaneously, and is playing along with Omar at the Angelika in New York, and takes a different but parallel path that reaches virtually the same place at the end.  Bethlehem starts a little slowly.  Adam Bakri's performance as Omar hits its target with the audience from pretty much the first close-up shot of the film, and carries us from there.  Bethlehem is a little broader in its approach.  The politics between different Palestinian factions that lurk in the background of Omar are in the foreground, which presents a broader canvas, and more jumping around from place to place and person to person, before ultimately settling on a similar relationship between a Palestinian and a handler in the Israeli intelligence forces.  Here, the Palestinian is the brother of a much-wanted terrorist who may be taking money and/or orders from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  Omar has a lot of little chase scenes, Bethlehem one extended set piece.  I liked both differently, and similarly.

These movies I'd heard some buzz on for some months ahead of their release.  Between the two of them on a kind of triple feature, I saw an Indian movie called The Lunchbox that came to my attention on the basis of some good reviews in the NY papers when it opened this weekend.  Really?  This is the story of an Indian woman who uses the famed lunch delivery system in Mumbai to send her husband a hot meal every day, but somehow or other her meals end up getting cross-shipped.  She and the "other man" start exchanging notes back-and-forth in the lunches.  There are an awful lot of shots of him, sitting at his desk, reading her notes.   Her, opening up the lunch-box at the end of the day to see if there is a return note hiding in an empty container.  Lots of shots of people riding the trains to work.  Subplots.  She yells upstairs to her auntie to share confidences, and auntie yells back with advice and gives recipe ideas.  He is asked to train his replacement, a particularly annoying person.  One dissenting review I read from Richard Brody in the New Yorker, sadly after I saw the movie, called it twenty minutes of story in a much longer film, and that's about the long -- and short! -- of it.  During Omar, when I was feeling bleary-eyed after losing the hour to the Daylight Savings switch the night before, I resisted sleep.  During The Lunchbox, there was plenty of time to sleep off the meal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved Omar!