Thanks to its rock band dynamics and authentic re-creation of the early 1970s, “Vulcan Junction” has a better shot than most Israeli pics at climbing out of the Jewish film-fest circuit. Pic, which got top prize at 1999’s Haifa fest, would play well to college-age auds, but it may not have quite enough of a hook to displace tonier arthouse fare.
Nicely paced tale, set on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, finds the ragtag house band of the Vulcan Junction — a Haifa nightclub run by a fast-talking Yank — about to break up or make it big. Which direction they’ll head pretty much depends on their charismatic lead singer, Shelly (played by Oren Shabo, who looks like Ted Nugent as played by a young Keith Carradine). He’s being wooed by commercial interests who have no interest in his bandmates nor in the aggressive hard rock of the period.
Shelly’s pal Avi (Sammy Ori), a handsome soccer star, gets picked up by an Amsterdam team, leaving his social activist g.f. (Yael Hadar) free to contemplate her longtime crush on the rocker.
The other musicians are cleanly drawn, with a few characteristics to distinguish them quickly and to set up conflicts both dramatic and humorous. Will the keyboard player give up his scholarship to a prestigious music academy in order to buy that newfangled synthesizer? Will the family-man bassist be able to pull up stakes if they make it? Will the clownish drummer ever manage to pick up that precocious schoolgirl he sees every day at the bus stop? (Pic plays with this last scenario, and some others, without contemplating the implications.) And will the Vietnam-vet club owner ever shut up about his alleged exploits with Janis and Jimi?
Vet helmer Eran Riklis (who also did the widely seen “Cup Final”) could have made these young characters a little more complicated, but pic has an amiably rambling quality that never becomes predictable. Even when the singer and the footballer almost come to blows — after committing a rather unplanned crime together and fighting over the girl — the situation is far from black-and-white. Actually, it’s mostly brown, orange and green, in keeping with the hideous rococo fashions of the period.
Soundtrack of good original songs is complemented by well-chosen repertoire of period tunes from the Hollies, Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, among many others. Other tech credits are fluid, with appropriate rough edges, and Israel-at-war angle — which ends things on an “American Graffiti”-like note — provides texture without making the story inaccessible to Western auds. Thesping runs from decent to striking; same goes for the concert segs.