×

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.

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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Gerard Butler Angel Has Fallen

    Film Review: 'Angel Has Fallen'

    “Angel Has Fallen” marks the third time that Gerard Butler, as the Secret Service agent and scowling samurai cowboy Mike Banning, has had to rescue the President of the United States from an international conspiracy so cuckoo bananas that the movie barely expects you to believe it. (Actually, in the six years since this series [...]

  • Jessica

    Ninja Thyberg's Female POV Porn Industry Portrait Seduces Buyers (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  Paris-based Versatile has announced a raft of pre-sales on Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature “Jessica,” set in the adult entertianment industry in L.A. World distributors that have pre-bought the Swedish drama take in Weltkino for Germany/Austria, Xenix for Switzerland, MK2/Mile End for Canada, KTH for South Korea and Movie Could for Taïwan. Several [...]

  • Sony Pictures: 'We Are Disappointed' by

    Sony 'Disappointed' by Disney's Divorce on 'Spider-Man' Projects

    Sony Pictures has gone public over its divorce with Disney on future “Spider-Man” projects. In a rare public rebuke to Disney, Sony announced Tuesday night that it was “disappointed” over the decision, highlighting Disney’s refusal to allow Marvel President Kevin Feige to continue as a producer on the projects. It also praised Feige, who teamed [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    ‘Good Boys’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Good Boys.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.42 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Demi Lovato

    Demi Lovato Joins Netflix Comedy 'Eurovision'

    Demi Lovato has joined the upcoming Netflix comedy film “Eurovision.” Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the film with Andrew Steele, announced the news Tuesday with an Instagram post, in which he wished Lovato a happy birthday with a “homemade” cake. Following the announcement, Lovato can be seen blowing out candles on the cake next to a “Eurovision” [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Film News Roundup: Rob Schneider Wins SAG-AFTRA National Board Seat

    In today’s film news roundup, Rob Schneider wins a SAG-AFTRA board seat; “Badland,” “Sorry We Missed You” and “Extracurricular” find homes; and “The Shawshank Redemption” gets a re-release.  SAG-AFTRA Rob Schneider has won a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Schneider won a four-year term [...]

  • This photo shows actor David Oyelowo

    David Oyelowo Joins George Clooney in 'Good Morning, Midnight' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Oyelowo is in final negotiations to join George Clooney in Netflix’s untitled adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” sources tell Variety. Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler are also on board, with Clooney set to helm the pic — his first feature film directing gig since 2017’s “Suburbicon.” “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content