Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

‘Strangers’ the film: A period piece, a tired genre, and a handful of cliche’s

Posted by Oyster on July 27, 2008

The happy couple. Hott.

I’m always excited when it comes time for the SFJFF to return to the Bay Area. The south bay is in a sweltering heat (as much of the rest of California), and one becomes restless. The lure of flog-enveloped San Francisco becomes irresistible. So bantered some of the film festival staff offering opening remarks before the screening of their opening night movie. Before we were settled in for the feature presentation, the audience was spoiled with a great sampling of the trailers of years past (and after over 27 years, there were many a classic clip & hilarious trailer). And who better to have spun such a great mash-up of vintage footage than the queen of the remix herself, Tiffany Shlain (aka Jewish Barbie, aka “Tribe: The Film”).

‘Strangers‘ [click on the link for two trailers, plot description, and ticket information] the film itself has at its core a very tired genre of “Romeo & Juliet” recapitulation (re-Capulet-iation?). Throw in typical & predictable festival stand-by’s of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and inter-faith relationships, and you had a winner that they couldn’t possibly have turned down. Categorically, it was impossible for them to pass it up. Especially when you factor in that it’s the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, and the festival has a major theme of Israeli cinema in its body of works. So, one thing that this film had to work very hard to overcome was these cliche’s and stereotypes that saddle the work with much expectation.

On the other hand, the acting between the Israeli hero and the Palestinian heroine was strong, and much of the banter, flirting (and hot steamy sex) was realistic. Plus, setting the film at the time of the start of the recent Lebanon War (or Israel-Hezbollah War), while geographically taking place in World-Cup obsessed Europe, gave the otherwise “horse-to-director: stop beating me” film plot a great context in time & space. The already apparently insurmountable differences between Rana & Eyal were complicated by the torrential stream of propaganda coming out from both sides as the war intensified. They had to at the same time emote to the painful news that they were hearing, and yet find the strength to make space for their romance to flourish.

One particular scene that really resonated with me was when Rana decided to bring Eyal to meet some of her Parisian friends in a cafe (how classic). One small detail that Rana somehow overlooked: they were convening to plan an Anti-Israel protest. This little oversight really made the film lose points in my book. Anyhoo, they go on to speak in machine-gun French about their disgust with Israel, and then Eyal wishes for them to switch to English so that he might participate. Short enough, Eyal gets up and walks out, infuriated with what they’re saying about Israel. This scene evoked for me many an impassioned invective-soaked argument that I would have about Israel in my time as one of the top pro-Israel student activists as the so-called Second Intifada was going on.

You can still go see the film in Berkeley, Palo Alto, and San Rafael. Don’t dally!


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