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Under Western Eyes

A desultory road movie/thriller, this insipid ultra-low-budget first feature from Georgian-born, Israeli-based Joseph Pitchadze is weighted down by its own sense of importance. A potentially intriguing manhunt story, pic is going nowhere commercially, though it was awarded first prize at last year's Jerusalem Film Festival. Pitchadze raised money from friends to shoot the film for a staggeringly low $8,000, and received help from various funding bodies to complete the production for a final budget of $450,000. Shot in grainy black-and-white, apart from a few color inserts purportedly filmed as home movies on a super-8 camera, the film contains nods to Tarantino, Wenders and Antonioni, but falls far short of the best work of any of them.

With:
Gary Razumov ..... Eyal Schehter Tom ..... Liat Glick Wolf ..... Ezra Kafri Carmi ..... Carmel Betto Izak ..... Gidon Shemer Yoshua ..... Picho Ben-Zur Igor ..... Yehuda Lazarovitch

Gary Razumov returns to Israel from Berlin for his father’s funeral, but almost immediately discovers he has been tricked. His father, sentenced to prison years earlier as a Russian spy, has escaped from the pokey, and a couple of sardonically humorous cops (the Tarantino characters) are using Gary as bait to lead them to his old man. At the airport Gary runs into a lissome actress with the unlikely name of Tom, and she joins him in his quest for his pop. They set out into the desert, followed by the cops, and there the film grinds to a halt, introducing extraneous characters (like an idiot hitchhiker) and dwelling endlessly on the rocky landscape while Gary’s voiceover narration intones such gems as “My heart is empty of love and hate. Angels are calling my name, but I don’t answer.”

Camerawork is serviceable, but the occasional blasts of choral music are uneasily integrated. This is the kind of film in which the characters are so filled with angst that true love blossoms when boy and girl copulate standing up in a public toilet.

The actors aren’t given much chance to make their characters more than ciphers. Writer-director Pitchadze may be a precocious talent in the making, but he needs to lighten up a little.

Under Western Eyes

Israeli

Production: A November Films production, supported by the Israeli Fund for Quality Films. (International sales: Brussels Avenue, Brussels.) Produced by Dubi Baruch, Joseph Pitchadze. Directed, written by Joseph Pitchadze.

Crew: Camera (B&W), Shai Goldman; editor, Dov Steuer; music, Berry Sakharof; production design, Giora Asaulov, Shahar Katsav; costumes, Itamar Sagi; sound Dolby stereo SR), Dov Steuer; assistant director, Eli Darzi. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 23, 1997. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Gary Razumov ..... Eyal Schehter Tom ..... Liat Glick Wolf ..... Ezra Kafri Carmi ..... Carmel Betto Izak ..... Gidon Shemer Yoshua ..... Picho Ben-Zur Igor ..... Yehuda Lazarovitch

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