One of those rare features in which water-pump pliers are elevated to its co-stars, "The Cutoff Man" looks at an unemployed Israeli paterfamilias who takes on the ill-paid, occasionally dangerous job of shutting off the water of those who haven't paid their bills.

One of those rare features in which water-pump pliers are elevated to co-star status, “The Cutoff Man” looks at an unemployed Israeli paterfamilias who takes on the ill-paid, occasionally dangerous job of shutting off the water of those who haven’t paid their bills. Rookie scribe-helmer Idan Hubel observes rather than explains, placing scraps of character and narrative development in an ocean of quotidian scenes as the protag goes about his repetitive business. Some fest oases will beckon, but theatrical revenue will be bone-dry beyond home turf and cinephile outposts such as Paris and, perhaps, New York.

Set in the arid northern provinces, “Man” shows a less prosperous side of Israel, where enough people can’t afford water for Gabi (Moshe Ivgy, effectively cast against type) to make a meager leaving from his job. Despite his almost stealthy routine, Gabi is nonetheless harassed and even physically abused by the poor, often desperate debtors — people Gabi’s family would likely join if he wasn’t thusly employed. Absent any major plot developments or insightful dialogue, there’s only so much Ivgy’s great face can suggest. The ocher-hued lensing is nicely composed, and the score used judiciously.

The Cutoff Man

Israel

Production

A Cinema Group production. (International sales: Urban Distribution Intl., Montreuil, France.) Produced by Eitan Mansuri. Directed, written by Idan Hubel.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Eitan Mansuri; editor, Nimrod Eldar; music, Eldar; art director, Aya Taziger; costume designer, Lee Amblik; sound, Eldar; assistant director Ihab Bachous; casting, Orit Azulay. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 3, 2012. Running time: 77 MIN.

With

Moshe Ivgy, Tom Yefet, Naama Shapira, Yuval Rahav, Jacky Cohen, Yotam Ben-Ahron, Daniel Moshes, Zehava Gabasi, Shachar Zakay, Gil Weiss.

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