You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

San Sebastian Film Review: ‘The Dune’

Yossi Aviram makes an uncommonly sensitive debut with this beautifully understated drama about a father and his long-estranged son.


Niels Arestrup, Lior Ashkenazi, Guy Marchand, Emma de Caunes, Moni Moshonov, Dana Adini, Mathieu Amalric, Vincent Aguesse. (French, Hebrew dialogue)

An uncommon film of great sensitivity, “The Dune” delivers a beautifully understated portrayal of the consequences of choosing a particular path at life’s crossroads. First-time feature helmer Yossi Aviram proves exceptionally gifted with his stellar cast, whose nuanced performances find gold in the spare script about an older gay police officer in France whose long-estranged son in Israel comes to make a connection. Perceptively commenting on the passage of time, the film is the kind of sleeper that appears out of nowhere yet makes an impact; it won best debut at the Haifa Film Festival and could see limited arthouse play.

Although gay-themed, with a rare portrayal of an older same-sex couple at its heart, there’s no reason why the pic need be relegated to the queer circuit, although such showcases will likely boost its profile. Equally key to the film’s appeal, especially for mature audiences, is the way it refuses to marginalize people 60 and older, giving them the kind of rich inner lives usually denied characters of a certain age.

Fortysomething Hanoch (Lior Ashkenazi) owns a bike repair shop in a desert town in Israel, filling his time playing chess with friend Fogel (Moni Moshonov). When wife Yael (Dana Adini, making an impression in a small role) discovers she’s pregnant, Hanoch tells her he’s not prepared to be a father, and she walks out.

In France, missing-persons investigator Ruben (Niels Arestrup) tracks down famed author Moreau (Mathieu Amalric), who disappeared three weeks earlier. The writer’s been holed up in a hotel, wanting to keep the world at bay; he and Ruben, an admirer, exchange respectful words in a terrific scene, but when the detective steps out to let Moreau get his things, the author jumps out the window.

Back in Paris, Ruben feels it’s time to retire. Moreau’s death has shaken him up, he’s depressed, and he and life partner Paolo (Guy Marchand) need to move apartments. Even Ruben’s dog, his constant companion, is showing his age.

Meanwhile, Hanoch appears in France, discreetly trailing Ruben and then heading to the coast in the southwest Landes region. There one morning, he’s found on the beach by Fabienne (Emma de Caunes), mute and without ID; the only item in his pocket is an article about Moreau’s suicide. Hanoch is taken to the hospital and Ruben is called to down to investigate, but the silent man’s mystery is difficult to crack.

Aviram keeps dialogue to a minimum, not in a perverse way, but because he’s aware that physicality and mood convey a richness, especially with this cast, more natural and profound than could be delivered in conversation. Exposition is more or less eliminated, and the connection between the Israeli and French stories isn’t immediately clear, but this is elliptical filmmaking at its best, and every character exudes a complex interiority as well as likability.

Central to “The Dune” is the solidity of Ruben and Paolo’s relationship; though they are very different personalities, and not without their occasional disagreements, the unquestioned, quietly demonstrable depth of their partnership provides Ruben with the solidity he needs to get through this difficult time. The pic is dedicated to Pierluigi and Reuven, the subjects of Aviram’s docu “Paris Returns,” and more than likely the inspiration for the helmer’s fiction debut.

Cast against type, Arestrup makes a depressed, tired old man into a noble and tormented figure, comfortable in himself and his love, yet haunted by a past he couldn’t control. Always a canny performer, he captures the meaning between the words, giving this cultured, empathic man an accessible majesty. More than half of Ashkenazi’s role is played sans dialogue, yet the thesp’s silent gaze calmly expresses the sadness and yearning that Hanoch is only just now confusedly addressing. Marchand, at times exasperated yet unswervingly devoted, and de Caunes, independent and hesitantly optimistic, are equally fine.

This is a standout year for d.p. Antoine Heberle, who follows sterling work in “Grigris” with the quiet elegance his lensing displays here. Whether via sun-filled exteriors or the more controlled lighting effects inside, his visuals provide a clear, simplified richness, as respectful of all the characters as Aviram’s superb screenplay.

San Sebastian Film Review: 'The Dune'

Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (New Directors), Sept. 23, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN. Original title: "La Dune"


(France-Israel) A Le Pacte (in France)/United King Films (in Israel) release of a Les Films du Poisson, Lama Prods. production, with the participation of the CNC, Cinemage 7, La Banque Postale Image 6, in association with Cinemage 5. (International sales: Le Pacte, Paris.) Produced by Yael Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez, Amir Harel, Ayelet Kait.


Directed, written by Yossi Aviram. Camera (color), Antoine Heberle; editors, Anne Weil, Francois Gedigier; music, Avi Belleli; production designers, Manu de Chauvigny, Boaz Katzenelson; costume designers, Alexia Crisp-Jones, Li Alembik; sound, Antoine-Basile Mercier, Ashi Milo; assistant director, Raphaelle Piani; casting, Marion Touitou.


Niels Arestrup, Lior Ashkenazi, Guy Marchand, Emma de Caunes, Moni Moshonov, Dana Adini, Mathieu Amalric, Vincent Aguesse. (French, Hebrew dialogue)

More Film

  • Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts

    Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts Without Censorship Approval

    Chinese crime drama “Summer of Changsha” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section despite lacking the necessary approvals from China’s censors. It premiered without its director or creative team in attendance, who blamed “technical reasons” for their absence — marking the third time that Chinese censorship appears to have caused [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • John Wick Chapter 3

    'John Wick: Chapter 3' Tones Down the Blood and Gore to Keep Look 'Totally Real'

    When Jeff Campbell, a visual effects supervisor with VFX studio Spin, initially set to work on the first “John Wick,” the 2014 action thriller from director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad, he started with an industry-standard test: Establish a single, simple kill effect meant to get a sense of the look of the violence [...]

  • Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cinéfondation

    Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cannes Cinefondation Selection Top Prize

    CANNES–“Mano a Mano,” by Louise Courvoisier of France’s CinéFabrique, won the first prize Thursday at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection,the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”). The jury also included French actress Stacy Martin (“Godard mon amour”); Israeli writer-director Eran [...]

  • The Traitor

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Traitor'

    What surprises most about Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” is just how straightforward it is. Given its subject — Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking Mafia don to sing to the authorities — there were expectations that the director would deliver a theatrical drama along the lines of “Vincere,” but notwithstanding a few operatic flourishes, his [...]

  • Perfect Strangers

    Zhao Tao, Rajkumar Hirani Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Italian director Paolo Genovese and Chinese actress Zhao Tao are among members of the jury for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival. They join the previously announced jury president, 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director behind last year’s “The Wild Pear Tree.” Genovese’s 2016 film “Perfect Strangers” made $7.7 million [...]

  • ‘An Easy Girl’ Wins Cannes Directors’

    ‘An Easy Girl’ Wins Cannes Directors’ Fortnight French-language Movie Prize

    CANNES  —  One of France’s most highly-regarded young women filmmakers, Rebecca Zlotowski, has won the Directors’ Fortnight prize for best French-language movie for “An Easy Girl,” a sensual coming of age tale set on France’s Cote d’Azur. From reviews published to date, “An Easy Girl” marks a return to form for Zlotowski after the disappointment [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content