Dir: Yaron Shani | Israel | Docudrama | 118′ | EROM
Yaron Shani rose to international acclaim with his feature debut Ajami. He brings to this year’s Venice film festival the first part of The Love Trilogy entitled STRIPPED (EROM). It’s an intriguing and highly intelligent cinema vérité piece that seeks to blur the lines between fiction and documentary through its refreshingly low key approach to an extremely intimate and at times startling film where the lives of seemingly unconnected eventually intertwine in its unexpected and quite shocking denouement. Performances are pitch perfect and naturalistic from its cast of mainly newcomers.
34 year-old Alice is an award-winning writer and filmmaker who lives with her menagerie of dogs in a Tel Aviv apartment. She is woken up one morning from a deep sleep by her boyfriend, under rather bewildering circumstances: the dogs have been shut in the bathroom where someone has scrawled a message on the mirror. Going about her day she increasingly starts to feel weird: panic attacks follow and a sense of desperate displacement and unease. On the news, reports of a rapist are circulating. Her mother decides to come and stay so the two can look after each other for a while but none of this takes place in a melodramatic ways as Shani coaxes completely natural performances from his cast of mostly newcomers,
In the same apartment block a talented young classical guitarist (Ziv, 17) lives with his parents. His high hopes for a professional career in a local orchestra are dashed when the audition results confirm that he hasn’t got in. Soul-searching ensues with his helpful family. He heads off for his army service where the demands of adulthood will rob him of his tenderness and innocence. One of his friends is in hospital suffering from cancer. His university friends gather round his bedside as an impromptu round of jazz singing kicks off. Later they will take part in a highly charged visit from a ‘strippo-gramme’ service – some will lose their virginity in scenes of explicit nudity – it’s all light-hearted fun but it gives the boys a taste of reality. The narrative then comes full circle in the final scenes when the main protagonists lives intertwine in a shocking finale subverting our expectations.
STRIPPED feels bracingly original and refreshingly different. In order to achieve this quasi documentary feel, the cast took part in an extreme method acting experiment where they have each inhabited the lives of their fictional characters for the unusual long shooting period of over a year. The skeleton script was then fleshed out by the actors’ own personal experiences and the result is refreshingly bold in its naturalism, and despite still being fiction – clearly their input makes proceedings highly personal. It’s as if the directer invented a new form – semi-fiction or documentary fiction. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | ORIZZONTI | 28 AUGUST – 9 SEPTEMBER