Review: ‘Frozen Days’

"Frozen Days" reps a sparky debut by scripter-helmer Danny Lerner. Fleet-footed psychodrama projects enough of its own personality to intrigue auds that don't insist on a neat wrapping up of all loose threads. Fest-friendly pic won Best Israeli Feature at the 2005 Haifa fest, and niche distribution is in the works. Local release is set for August.

A nifty puzzle about a young Tel Aviv drug peddler assuming the identity of a man she’s barely met, “Frozen Days” reps a sparky debut by scripter-helmer Danny Lerner. Owing no small debt to Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant,” fleet-footed psychodrama projects enough of its own personality to intrigue auds that don’t insist on a neat wrapping up of all loose threads. Fest-friendly pic won Best Israeli Feature at the 2005 Haifa fest, and niche distribution is in the works. Local release is set for August.

Cat-like both in her physical features and in her nocturnal prowlings in back alleys and nightclubs, the appropriately monikered Miao (Anat Klausner) scoots around town supplying psychedelic good times to Tel Aviv party animals.

An early transaction with smooth-talking buyer Nahman (Uli Sternberg) crisply shows Miao as a tough cookie with no mind to dispense free samples or the after-sales dalliance he’s fishing for.

A blank page living alone in a featureless apartment, Miao has but one confidante-of-sorts, a cell phone chat buddy known as Zero. Swayed by the stranger’s verbal footsy, Miao agrees to a rendezvous at his darkened apartment, where he tells her he’s Alex Kaplan. Sexual preliminaries appear to be under way when a sudden intrusion of light prompts the girl to flee.

Just when auds might be wondering where all this non-contact drama is heading, pic ramps up with a brief and telling color sequence. Drugged-out Miao is attempting to hook up again with Alex at a crowded disco when a suicide bomb explodes. In the aftermath, Miao bluffs her way into an emergency ward and is led to a comatose patient bandaged up like a mummy. This, she’s told, is Alex Kaplan.

At this point the narrative goes deliberately and enthrallingly haywire, with Miao suddenly entering Alex’s apartment and trying his clothes on for size. Next, she’s being addressed as Alex by neighbors and turning up to his workplace without anyone batting an eyelid.

Running parallel to this forward movement is backtracking which posits Miao in skewed re-runs of earlier scenes.

Smartly mapped criss-crossing of Miao’s alternative past with her thoroughly disoriented present invites auds to solve the absorbing questions of who’s real and who’s not. Lerner’s consistently slippery screenplay keeps a number of mysteries bubbling along nicely, though its denouement does run the risk of eliciting both “wow” and “huh” reactions.

Wow is the word for perf of newcomer Klausner, who’s in almost every shot, and a magnetic presence as both the coolly detached and deeply disturbed versions of the protag.

Polished production betrays little of its origins as a student film. Deep pools of darkness in d.p. Ram Shweky’s lighting scheme effectively carve out characters as night creatures scuttling away from the light, and Tomer Ran’s stark piano score plays like a heartbeat threatening to stop.

Frozen Days

Israel

Production

A Frozen Days production in association with Bleiberg Entertainment, July August Prods. and Israeli Film Fund. (International sales: Bleiberg, Los Angeles.) Produced by Alan Lerner, Danny Lerner, Assaf Rav. Executive producers, Ehud Bleiberg, Edouard Douek. Directed, written by Danny Lerner.

Crew

Camera (B&W/color, DV cam), Ram Shweky; editor, Tal Keller; music, Tomer Ran; sound, Itay Havlevi. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival (Indie Screen), June 22, 2006. (Also in Shanghai Film Festival -- Panorama; 2005 Haifa Film Festival.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Anat Klausner, Uli Sternberg, Sandra Sade, Pini Tabger, Maor Cohen.
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