Dec 7, 2012

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World Cinema Blogathon: Yossi and Jagger

During December my good friend Supermarcey and I are doing a blogathon, and rather than do the same thing a lot of movie blogs will be doing this month, we thought we'd avoid anything Christmas related.  Instead we're looking at world cinema and, each week, each of us will assign the other a film from a non English speaking country.  Each of the four films has to be something the viewer hasn't seen before, and each has to be from a different country.  For me, thanks to Marcey, the journey starts in Israel.

Here's why Marcey picked Yossi and Jagger for me:

The Jewish International Film Festival was just in town here, and I reviewed one of the films playing called Yossi. I thought it was a fantastic film and I actually had no idea it was a sequel to director Eytan Fox’s debut film Yossi & Jagger. I immediately went to seek it out and I thought this was an excellent film. In simple terms the film is about a romance between two soldiers, they are two very different men, and they are stationed out near the Lebanese border.  I think Yossi is a slightly better film, but this is a raw film and it really did hit me hard. In choosing this for Sam, I wanted to give him something that actually hit me.

Yossi and Jagger
Dir: Eytan Fox


I should say as a caveat to everything that follows that Yossi and Jagger may have the very worst official DVD release I have ever seen.  There's probably not a huge amount that can be done with the picture, but it definitely shouldn't look this bad: every edge is jagged with pixellation, and in long shots the characters look like 8 Bit game sprites.  It's so bad it makes the film nearly unwatchable.  TLA releasing should have been ashamed to put it out.

At just 64 minutes, Yossi and Jagger feels incredibly slight, and that's probably its biggest problem.  The extreme compression of the narrative (such as it is) means that we get very few scenes in which to establish the strength and history of the relationship between Sergeant Yossi and his subordinate Jagger.  However, Ohad Knoller and Yehuda Levi just about pull the film past this issue with their strong performances, which say as much or more with looks and gestures as they do with words.  An early scene where the two sneak off, apparently on a recon mission for that night's potential ambush, but actually play and make love in the snow, is perhaps a little idealised, but it's the only chance we get to see the two characters be entirely themselves.

Too much of the rest of the film's running time is spent just waiting for the ambush.  There's a neat little side story about a female soldier (Aya Steinovitz) who is in love with Jagger, and the tense scene where she asks Yossi if she should act on her feelings is another of the strong moments, but overall there's not enough focus on the main relationship for the film's middle half hour to make it hit quite as hard as it should.

The film feels cheap and small scale, but never so apparently as in the ambush scene, which does look more than a little like it was shot in someone's back yard, but does throw up one of the film's most touching moments.

Ultimately Yossi and Jagger is very much a debut film, it suggests that Eytan Fox has a way with actors, as there's an easy reality to all of the performances, but the film feels incomplete; racing for the finish line from the very first frame, very much to its detriment.  Another twenty minutes might have coloured in the relationship at the film's centre a bit more, and made the final scene, which is easily the film's best, even more affecting.  I'd like to see Yossi, and see how Fox has grown as a filmmaker in ten years, but this is a mixed bag.

Marcey's review of my first assignment for her; Japanese teen comedy Linda Linda Linda is posted HERE

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