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Letters from Rishikeshi

In veteran Israeli helmer Daniel Wachsmann's dreamlike walkabout film, a Russian living in Israel wanders through India searching for his estranged daughter. Hero follows fragmentary clues and cryptic testimony through landscape of tawdry mysticism that owes as much to Bollywood as it does to Buddha.

With:
With: Vladimir Freidman, Lucy Dubinichik, Adi Shmueli, Yonathan Rozen.

In veteran Israeli helmer Daniel Wachsmann’s dreamlike walkabout film, a Russian living in Israel wanders through India searching for his estranged daughter. Hero follows fragmentary clues and cryptic testimony through landscape of tawdry mysticism that owes as much to Bollywood as it does to Buddha. Vladimir Freidman’s (“Broken Wings”) compelling lead performance anchors pic’s cross-cultural layers of alienation. Unfortunately, non-Jewish-specific themes and video lensing make oddball pleasures of “Letters” a hard sell.

Like “The Limey,” pic posits a two-tiered familial storyline: The pieced-together experiences of a daughter gleaned from video snatches, letters and diary entries are overlaid with reactions from her father. As with “Limey,” the child’s fate slowly becomes subsumed in the quest of the parent who belatedly tries to compensate for past failures. At first frustrated, the father soon experiences a strange empathy for people whose lives touched his daughter’s: the Hindu dancing master, an Israeli video director, a delusional actor. Wachsmann subtly alters rhythms, shifting from twisting city streets to the epic sweep of the Himalayan foothills; pic’s imagistic power is visible even in substandard Beta transfer.

Letters from Rishikeshi

Israel

Production: A Canaan Galilee Films production. Produced by Sara Wachsmann. Directed by Daniel Wachsmann. Screenplay, Wachsmann, Adi Shmueli, Amit Lior.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Amnon Zalait; editor, Yosef Grunfeld; music, Uri Ophir. Russian, English dialogue. Reviewed at New York Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 22, 2005. Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Vladimir Freidman, Lucy Dubinichik, Adi Shmueli, Yonathan Rozen.

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