×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Women

A careful historical reconstruction of a bygone era in which Jews and Arabs co-existed peacefully in Jerusalem, Moshe Mizrahi's new film, "Women," is an enchanting tale of polygamy that was sanctioned by religious tradition.

With:
With: Ilor Harpaz, Yossef Shiloah, Rivka Gur, Arie Elias, Levana Finkelstein, Shosha Goren, Shraga Harpaz, Orit Mizrahi.

A careful historical reconstruction of a bygone era in which Jews and Arabs co-existed peacefully in Jerusalem, Moshe Mizrahi’s new film, “Women,” is an enchanting tale of polygamy that was sanctioned by religious tradition. A strong central performance by Michal Bat-Adam, as a bright, pious, self-sacrificing woman, and authentic ambience of time and place compensate for a slight, often slow-moving narrative that would have made a great short. Result is an enjoyable film that should definitely be included in the next Israel Film Festival in the U.S. and perhaps even get a limited theatrical distribution in cities that have large Jewish and Israeli communities.

Set against the luxuriant backdrop of a magical Jerusalem at the turn of the century, “Women” is the closest thing moviegoers are ever likely to see of a Judaic version of that uniquely French concept, menage a trois. Startling, if simple, tale centers on Rebecca (Bat-Adam), devout and loving wife of Jacob (Amos Lavi), a respected Sephardic rabbi well versed in the cabala. After 15 years of blissful marriage, Rebecca feels shehas failed her husband and her duties as a wife because she has been unable to bear him any children.

Popular on Variety

Jacob doesn’t seem to mind, but the strong, highly determined Rebecca suffers deeply; she’s also the subject of gossip and criticism from her mother-in-law and other members of the community. In a self-sacrificing manner, Rebecca comes up with an original if unconventional solution, a virginal 18-year-old orphan to wed her husband and provide him with a son.

Initially reluctant, the husband gives in when he realizes that Rebecca is motivated by selfless love and genuine religious conviction. Nonetheless, as soon as the wedding is over, complications ensue when members of the unorthodox triangle try to perform their expected duties. Human nature being what it is, the generous, bighearted Rebecca is slowly transformed into an overly sensitive, insecure and jealous woman who can’t tolerate seeing her husband smitten by his younger, more beautiful wife.

Director Mizrahi must have realized that the story is extremely modest, for he has smartly chosen to focus on a meticulous re-creation of the era, with detailed attention to Jewish mores in the Old City of Jerusalem: the elaborate meals, the preparations for the sabbath, the segregation of men and women in synagogues, the lively marketplace, the exquisite wedding ceremonies.

With 14 features to his credit, including the Oscar-winning “Madame Rosa,” starring Simone Signoret, Mizrahi has devoted his career to a celebration of the largely neglected Sephardic tradition. While “Women” is one of his more handsome and technically polished films, it lacks the visual style to make it a truly enchanting fairy tale.

Still, Mizrahi should be commended for going against the grain of current Israeli and European movies, and for reportedly waiting 25 years for his wife, distinguished actress Bat-Adam, to be the right age to play the older wife, which she does magnificently. English subtitles are adequate, though pic sounds better in Hebrew, as a good portion of the clever dialogue is in verse.

Women

Israeli

Production: A Movit Ltd. film production. Produced by Michael Sharfstein, Amitan Manelzon. Directed, written by Moshe Mizrahi, based on a story by Yehuda Burla.

Crew: Camera (color), Amnon Zalaier; editor, Tova Asher; music, Avihu Medina; sound, Eli Taragan, Israel David, Jean-Paul Loublier. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 25, l996. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Ilor Harpaz, Yossef Shiloah, Rivka Gur, Arie Elias, Levana Finkelstein, Shosha Goren, Shraga Harpaz, Orit Mizrahi.

More Film

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

  • Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'

    Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner 'Zanka Contact,' Upcoming Projects

    Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, [...]

  • Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key

    Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key in Promoting Films From the Arab World, Africa

    Looking back at the lineups of key festivals such as Cannes and Venice this year, 2019 stands out as a banner year for movies from the African continent and the Arab world. During a panel hosted at the Netflix-sponsored industry event Atlas Workshops during the Marrakech Film Festival, Rémi Bonhomme, who works at Cannes’ Critics’ [...]

  • Robert RedfordRobert Redford tribute, 18th Marrakech

    Robert Redford Talks About Potential Next Film, U.S. Politics, Life Philosophy

    During a 90-minute onstage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute, Robert Redford spoke about his life-long quest for truth and freedom, and his political engagement through films, as well as a long-gestating project he’s considering producing, despite having announced his retirement. When he has spoken about the project, “109 [...]

  • For Sama SXSW Cannes Documentary

    'For Sama' Wins Best Feature at International Documentary Association Awards

    Syrian Civil War diary “For Sama” has won the best feature award from the International Documentary Association for Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The award was presented by Frances Fisher on Saturday night at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The first-time award for Best Director went to Steven Bognar and Julia [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content