You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Matchmaker

A memory play gold-dusted with adolescent longing and a strong sense of fable.

With: Adir Miller, Maya Dagan, Dror Keren, Dov Navon, Tuval Shafir, Neta Porat, Yarden Bar-Kochva, Bat-el Papura, Kobi Farag, Yael Leventhal, Tom Gal, Eyal Shechter.

A memory play gold-dusted with adolescent longing and a strong sense of fable, “The Matchmaker” seems singular among Israeli features in the way it juxtaposes guilt with hope, national birth pains with youthful hubris, and utilizes an underside of Israeli life not usually exposed to public view. Nevertheless, this look back at late-’60s Haifa makes for strong, accessible, character-driven drama. Theatrical exposure will be limited to arthouses, but festival play should be strong and DVD sales vibrant.

Opening in 2006 Haifa, with the sky raining Lebanese missiles, “Matchmaker” finds the 50-ish writer Arik Burstein (Eyal Shechter) receiving a windfall: Yankele Bride (Israeli standup comic Adir Miller), the matchmaker for whom Arik worked as a teenager, has left him money and property in his will. The unexpected, life-transforming inheritance whisks Arik back into the past, to Haifa of 1968 — a changing world that includes his parents, who’ve seen enough change in their life, and Yankele, a Romanian camp survivor who is introduced to Arik at a pivotal moment of his youth.

Based on Amir Gutfreund’s book “When Heroes Fly,” “The Matchmaker” has a novelistic traffic jam of plotlines; Yankele works out of the “bad side” of Haifa, where women of ill repute, smugglers and vagabonds inhabit the street. Helmer Avi Nesher creates a sense of Fellini-esque carnival, made only more striking by the presence of the diminutive Sylvia (the beautiful Bat-el Papura) and her family of dwarves, who run the local movie house. Sylvia is one of Yankele’s more problematic clients, but he’s not discouraged, being convinced that he can provide people “what they need, not what they want.”

The ad-hoc alliance of young Arik (Tuval Shafir) and Yankele is believable and poignant: Arik is the bright future of Israel, whereas Yankele is its past — viewed as shameful by many Israeli, who believe if you survived the Holocaust, you must have done something wrong. This becomes the film’s most intriguing aspect: Did Yankele do something he’s ashamed of? What about Clara (Maya Dagan), whom Yankele, the matchmaker, can love only at arm’s length? “The Matchmaker’s” most exhilaratingly pathetic moment arrives when Yankele relates to Arik a camp story that ought to curl his hair: Is it really about Yankele and Clara? We never know, but the possibility is haunting.

Miller is superb, as is Dagan, whose Clara is a broken sparrow, lost in her sorrows. Running concurrently with their tale is Arik’s story, which is a far more pedestrian tale of raging adolescence. When the disturbing Tamara (Neta Porat) is dropped off with relatives for the summer, in the hopes of straightening out her disruptive behavior, the teenage city of Haifa is suddenly introduced to the ’60s; Tamara is like an Israeli version of Courtney Love, upending propriety and getting several boys, including Arik, in touch with their burgeoning libidos.

The film’s equilibrium, counterbalancing Arik’s confused teenage joy and Yankele’s melancholia, is a metaphor all its own, and is well handled by Nesher. What “The Matchmaker” lacks is a similar sense of calibration with regard to performances; the younger characters come across as far less convincing than their elders. But perhaps that’s a metaphor, too.

Production values are topnotch.

The Matchmaker


Production: A 6Sales presentation of a United King Films, Metro Communications, United Channel Movies, Artomas Communications production in association with Keshey, Hot, Praxis and the participation of the Yeshoua Rabinovich Tel Aviv Foundation for the Arts and Cinema Project. (International sales: 6Sales, Toronto.) Produced by Moshe Ederi, Leon Edery, David Silber, Avraham Pirchi, David Silber, Chilik Michaeli, Avi Nesher, Tami Leon, Natan Caspi. Co-producers, Shlomo Mograbi, Rami Damri, Eviatar Dotan. Directed, written by Avi Nesher, inspired by Amir Gutfreund's novel "When Heroes Fly."

Crew: Camera (color), Michele Abramowicz; editor, Isaac Sehayek; music, Philippe Sarde; art director, Miguel Markin; costume designer, Rona Doron; sound, Yisrael David. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 11, 2010. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Adir Miller, Maya Dagan, Dror Keren, Dov Navon, Tuval Shafir, Neta Porat, Yarden Bar-Kochva, Bat-el Papura, Kobi Farag, Yael Leventhal, Tom Gal, Eyal Shechter.

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content