“Besame Mucho,” the striking sophomore effort of the young, talented Israeli director Joseph Pitchhadze, fulfills the promise he showed in his 1996 feature debut, “Under Western Eyes.” With its wide canvas, large gallery of colorful characters and bravura technical style, this film noir, co-winner of the 2000 Wolgin Prize for best Israeli feature, recalls the work of such American filmmakers as Paul Thomas Anderson and particularly Quentin Tarantino; in fact, there’s too much of the Tarantino effect. Flawed narrative that relies on several underdeveloped characters and awkward relationships prevents this modern meditation on love from fully realizing its ambitious goal. Nonetheless, “Besame Mucho” serves as an example of a new Israeli cinema that’s more concerned with innovative techniques and storytelling strategies than with contents or plot per se.
Set mostly at night in Tel Aviv, this moody yarn revolves around a dozen lively but marginal characters who are directly or indirectly linked to the theft of a Christian icon from an international crime syndicate. Pitchhadze acquits himself better as a director familiar with the genre’s visual vocabulary than as a writer of a thoroughly developed and engaging narrative, and ultimately his picture boasts many impressive scenes but is too fractured for its own good.