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Metallic Blues

"Metallic Blues" sneaks up on viewers. Starting out as a comedy about two Israeli car salesmen who buy a vintage American limo with Canadian plates from an Arab to take it to sell in Hamburg, pic detours into murkier byways. Offbeat, largely comic treatment of present-day German/Jewish relations should prove strong urban draw.

With:
With: Avi Kushnir, Moshe Ivgy. (Hebrew, English, German dialogue.)

A film whose multinational production mirrors its own internal logic, “Metallic Blues” sneaks up on viewers. Starting out as a lowbrow comedy about two out-of-their-depth Israeli car salesmen who buy a vintage American limo with Canadian plates from an Arab to take it to sell in Hamburg, pic detours into murkier byways. Pair’s get-rich-quick scheme goes enjoyably south by way of slapstick tourist mishaps, before helmer-scribe Danny Verete resurrects the ghost of Deutschland past and throws a pall uber alles. Offbeat, largely comic treatment of present-day German/Jewish relations should prove strong urban draw.

Comedy is carried off with rhythm-perfect aplomb by the lead fortysomething Mutt ‘n’ Jeff duo. Avi Kushnir, an Israeli stand-up, incarnates Shmuel, the brains of the outfit, with a widget salesman’s belief in the universality of commerce (“buy cheap, sell dear”), giving him the confidence to bluff his way through any situation. A child of Holocaust survivors, he has heard the stories so often that they no longer affect him, and he heads off for Germany with few qualms, telling his parents he’s visiting Rome.

Married but without children, he has less to lose than his sadsack partner Siso (veteran Israeli thesp Moshe Ivgy), a Moroccan Jew who has never been to Europe nor particularly wants to go, whose investment in the ’85 Lincoln Continental is important for his children’s needs.

At customs, the contrast between their schlumpy clothes and luxury car puts the duo through frightening search-and-seizure methods before the officials suggest that, if they don’t want to be hassled everywhere they go, they buy some threads commensurate with their wheels. Installed in an opulent suite at a four-star hotel, the first in a long line of misunderstandings finds two famished.

In the process of turning themselves out in expensive duds (Siso winds up decked out like a down-on-his-luck pimp while Shmuel favors a mid-range gangster look), Shmuel leaves his wallet in the soon-closed clothing store and the two must sneak out of their hotel without paying the tab.

Though the car appears to be in mint condition, seemingly minor considerations give the dealer a reason to offer far less than the agreed-upon price, — sending it down to exactly the price they paid for it. While Siso wants to take the money and run, Shmuel’s search for profit soon turns into a misguided crusade for justice.

Increasingly, the faces and unnaturally restrained quiet of the people around him, who regard his angry outbursts and swarthy-looking companion with disdain, bring back his parents’ Holocaust horror stories, which director Verete recreates. Though not particularly convincing, these past intrusions are mercifully short and function adequately as windows into Shmuel’s mind.

Tech credits are fine, belying pic’s modest budget.

Metallic Blues

Israel-Canada-Germany

Production: A BBR Prods., Verete Film, Metro Communications, United King Films, Gemini Films production with the participation of Telefilm Canada, SODEC, Israel Film Fund, HOT Israel Cable Television and FilmForderung. Produced by Suzanne Girard, Klaus Rettig, Danny Verete. Co-producers, Miky Rabinovitz, David Silber. Executive producers, Luc Chatelain, Leon and Moshe Edery, Gerhard Schmidt. Directed, written by Danny Verete.

Crew: Camera (color), Yoram Millo; editor, Rachel Yagil; music, Michel Cusson; production designer, Zazie Knepper; costumes, Claudia Landolt; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean-Pierre Bissonette; associate producers, Debra Kouri, Sonja Moerkens, Dagmar Niehage, Alain Simard. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Europe), Sept. 2, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Avi Kushnir, Moshe Ivgy. (Hebrew, English, German dialogue.)

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