No one can accuse Chilean helmer Miguel Littin of lacking ambition or originality. If anything, "The Last Moon" is <I>too</I> packed with incident and intention. Multinational cast is strong, although their work is undercut by rather obvious dubbing into Arabic.

No one can accuse Chilean helmer Miguel Littin of lacking ambition or originality. If anything, “The Last Moon” is too packed with incident and intention. Multinational cast is strong, although their work is undercut by rather obvious dubbing into Arabic. Tale is about two young men living on the West Bank in Palestine in 1914 as World War I loomed. One man is a Jew from Argentina, and the other is an Orthodox Christian. Pic has obvious messages, but is not quite graceful enough to invite the kind of international attention the subject deserves. Prospects at more liberal Jewish fests look bright.

Part of a proposed trilogy of pics (“A Palestinian Chronicle” was the first), “Moon” focuses on a fictionalized version of what happened just before helmer’s grandparents — children at the time — were sent to South America.

Main players are good-natured, if slightly hot-headed Soliman (cast standout Ayman Zbu Zoulouf), the Orthodox Christian who reluctantly befriends Jacob (Alejandro Goic), an Argentinian Jew also living in the area so far untouched by the war starting to rage in Europe.

Jacob wants to buy a hunk of Soliman’s arid land on a hill overlooking their West Bank town, and help him build a two-story house there. Apart from his goodhearted, pretty wife (Tamara Acosta), Soliman’s family warns him to stay away from the crazy foreigner.

But circumstances force Soliman to sell to Jacob, and the men gradually develop a working relationship, although that is threatened by first the machinations of the local Otooman overlords and then the British opportunitists who take their place.

Pic reaches most myth-like and stylized level with introduction of beautiful young Jewish woman (Francisca Merino) shot by Turks and nursed back to health by local Arabs.

Littin excels at sketching out some underlying forces and effects of the period. There are nice touches, as in having one hanger-on, hiding out from the growing conflict, who claims to have ridden into Damascus with Lawrence and his (momentarily) triumphant Arabs.

But less-than-epic approach may require too much previous knowledge from auds, and is unlikely to shake prejudices of viewers who are knowledgeable about the region’s history.

In the end, helmer seems overwhelmed with all that needs to be accomplished by an initially simple tale. Things do come to an affecting and highly relevant finish, with former friends staring at each other across barbed wire.

Erotic undertones, with some female nudity early on, may give handsomely shot and well-scored “Moon” extra life in some quarters while restricting sales in others. Title refers to a song popular in Chile, given cursory treatment here and redolent with political implications in both the old world and new.

The Last Moon

Chile - Mexico - Spain

Production

A Latido Films production. (International sales: Latido Films, Madrid.) Produced by Jorge Infante, Osvaldo Barzalatto, Abdullah Ommidvar, Cristina Littin Menz. Executive producers, Pepe Torres, Miguel Littin, Miguel Joan Littin. Directed, written by Miguel Littin.

Crew

Camera (color), Miguel Joan Littin; editor, Rodolfo Wedeles; music, Wadim Kassis; production designer, Carlos Garrido; costumes, Garrido; sound, Marcos Aguirre; associate producer, Manuel E. Hubner. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), June 11, 2005. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Ayman Zbu Zoulouf, Tamara Acosta, Francisca Merino, Alejandro Goic. (Arabic, Turkish and Hebrew dialogue)

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