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Giraffes

One of the smartest, most purely enjoyable Israeli pics in years, "Giraffes" has fun with the self-referencing, meta-cinema concept but never makes too big a deal out of it. By turns sexy, farcical and mysterious, pic boasts a polished look and a very appealing cast in a tale that can travel more easily than most Middle Eastern fare.

With:
With: Meital Dohan, Liat Glick, Tinkerbell, Micha Selektar, Gal Zaid, Elisheva Michaeli, Abraham Celektar, Yaron Motola, Modi Bar-On, Yael Navi, Sharon Malachi, Asher Sivan, Yael Almog. (Hebrew, French and English dialogue)

One of the smartest, most purely enjoyable Israeli pics in years, “Giraffes” has fun with the self-referencing, meta-cinema concept but never makes too big a deal out of it. By turns sexy, farcical and mysterious, pic boasts a polished look and a very appealing cast in a tale that can travel more easily than most Middle Eastern fare.

“The world is basically arbitrary,” drones the voice on a self-help tape as a man jumps out of his car, pulls a gun, and chases a short-haired young woman through an orange grove, into an abandoned building, and seemingly to her death from an unexpected fall. The rest of the well-used running time is spent unraveling what went before, although enough oddball elements enter into the flashbacks to make viewers wonder if they’re getting the straight stuff.

The gal on the run apparently is Efrat, a stunning but lonely secretary played by pixie-like newcomer Meital Dohan, who looks like a tough Audrey Tautou. Indeed, the “Amelie” comparison gets underlined when Efrat passes herself off as a French tourist to an old woman (Elisheva Michaeli) who takes her in when she gets in trouble.

That trouble starts when Efrat misses her ride with a blind date named Avner (Micha Selektar). Avner mistakenly hooks up with Dafna (Liat Glick), a part-time actress who lives in the same Tel Aviv building and was waiting for a lift to her night shoot. Abigail (Tinkerbell), another gal from the house, gets that ride, on a whim, and ends up stealing Dafna’s part.

After missing her date, Efrat, wearing the necklace of giraffes that will later incriminate her, ends up going for beers with a friendly cab driver — an unfortunate turn when he pulls her into some shenanigans that leave her with a dead cabby and a bag full of money. She goes on the lam, and eventually contacts the sympathetic Abigail to help her find a lawyer — a sawbones who happens to be Avner.

As plot complications continue to pile up, the first clue that everything shouldn’t be taken at face value comes when it’s revealed that Abigail’s a magazine journalist; in fact, she’s writing up everything she learns about Efrat’s case. By the time helmer-scripter Tzahi Grad starts intercutting her on-page conjectures with “real” flashbacks, viewers have been warned to be suspicious. When it turns out that Abby’s using her new show-biz connections to pitch the caper as a movie concept, the whole story begins to unravel, albeit in a way that’s more amusing than arbitrary.

En route, there’s a lot of witty dialogue and compelling biplay between uniformly attractive cast. Lead Dohan’s scenes with old-timer Michaeli, as the brusque landlady who becomes a surrogate mother to the troubled heroine, add soulful counterpoint to the eros and satire that otherwise predominates.

All tech aspects are sharp, although synth-heavy music sounds just a tad on the cheap side.

Giraffes

Israel

Production: A Min Hamuchan 1 Investments (Tel Aviv) production, in association with Lev Theaters. Produced by Tzahi Grad, Isaac Shani. Executive producer, Dafna Leshem. Directed, written by Tzahi Grad.

Crew: Camera (color), Giora Bejach; editors, Joel Alexis, Shimon Spektor; music, Israel Bright; production designer, Ariela Vidzer; sound, Sefi Carmel; assistant director, Michal Engel; casting, Galit Eshkol. Reviewed at Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, May 18, 2003. Running time: 115 MIN.

With: With: Meital Dohan, Liat Glick, Tinkerbell, Micha Selektar, Gal Zaid, Elisheva Michaeli, Abraham Celektar, Yaron Motola, Modi Bar-On, Yael Navi, Sharon Malachi, Asher Sivan, Yael Almog. (Hebrew, French and English dialogue)

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