charming and quirky little Israeli slice-of-life has been opening some eyes,
winning the Palm D'Or for best first-time feature at the Cannes Film
Festival last year. Directed with surprising sure-footedness by
respected husband and wife writers Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen,
Jellyfish (Meduzot) shows the two are extremely talented in yet another
I can see
this film being big in Cannes, because it has a very French cinema vibe to
it -- and that is probably not just because there is some French money
behind the production. Just the style and acting and the subject
matter all feel very at one with French themes. There is even a Hebrew
recording of "La Vie En Rose" which is repeated a few times throughout the
running time of the film.
most amazing thing is that Jellyfish takes place in modern Tel Aviv and there
is no real reference to or acknowledgement of all the Middle East strife
going on around the characters. Not that that is not an important
subject, but life in Israel can't all revolve around the wars and it is nice
to get a feel for the minutiae of daily life in the country, mixing hard
daily reality with a charmingly surreal bent.
Jellyfish is not about politics -- at least not the politics of
leadership. Instead it embraces the politics of relationships, looking
at how several Israeli lives are changed by the people they love and the
people they meet.
There is a
vague connecting tissue to the three stories which co-exist here -- the
wedding reception of a young couple who may not know each other as well as
bride (Noa Knoller) breaks her ankle trying to escape from a bathroom stall,
the couple has to scramble to find local accommodations for the honeymoon
because they can no longer go to the Caribbean. They end up in a Tel
hotel where they start quickly to get on each other's nerves -- the room is
too hot, too loud, there is nothing to do, they really have little in common. Then the groom
(Gera Sandler) befriends an
older, mysterious woman writer who is also staying at the hotel, which sets
off a jealous streak in his new spouse.
One of the
waitresses at the reception is Batya (Sarah Adler), despondent after
breaking up with her boyfriend, living in a tenement apartment that has an
ever-worsening leak, who has strained relationships with her politician
mother, her father and his new bride, a former school classmate of
the Batya's. Her life changes completely when she befriends the
wedding photographer and later at the beach meets a young, silent,
lost girl (Nikol Leidman) who she feels she must care for.
main character is a homesick Filipino nurse (Ma-nenita De Latorre) who is hired by a middle-aged
actress (the actress' pretentiously post-modern stage version of Hamlet
provide some of the film's most unexpected laughs) to care for her elderly
mother -- despite the fact that the nurse knows no Hebrew. The mother
wants no part of this woman in her home, but eventually the two are able to
work out an increasingly comfortable relationship -- to the disappointment
of the daughter who can't connect with her own mother.
of the stories swerve in and out until Jellyfish has created a vital
human tapestry. Much of it verges on the fantastical -- for example,
you never know for sure if the little girl is real or just a figment of
Batya's imagination. Yet, in many ways it simply doesn't matter.
Jellyfish takes an imaginative look at women who are figuratively (and
occasionally literally) lost at sea, trying to find beacons to lead them to
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Posted: March 20, 2008.