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rochefort [Film Festival 03.24.11] movie review drama fantasy



Year: 2010
Directors: Assaf Tager
Writers: Assaf Tager
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 5 out of 10

In a run-down world in which most people can no longer dream or even sleep, Mr. Terrier (Liron Levo) runs a "dream factory" that allows the masses to share a consensual experience stemming from Mr. Coma, one of the last living dreamers. But Mr. Coma is expected to die soon, his dreams stale and repetitive, and the hungry crowds are becoming restless; salvation arrives in the form of Sarah (Sarah Adler), a vivid (and maybe even the last) dreamer who soon recharges the factory. Fearing the revolts that will result if Sarah fails to consistently deliver, Mr. Terrier opts to confine and drug her, prompting Didi, Sarah's lover and the factory's "dream editor", to attempt an escape that, if successful, could mean the end of all dreams.

I personally believe that the best films grab and hold you regardless of how much you may know about the story beforehand. Up until the late 70's, it was sometimes difficult to find much pre-release information for a number of movies; even in the last few hours before the first showings of "Star Wars", most knew it only as a title, a few from the poster, and a tiny minority from a trailer that included no actual footage. Things are obviously very different now, and our current media climate is one where it's difficult for even the casually media-savvy to walk into a movie cold, and it often takes a conscious and even aggressive effort to remain unspoiled. But then there's the opposite problem, an admittedly rarer one, one in which it's absolutely necessary the audience know the entire plot of a given film if they are to experience it with any sense of context, and this definitely applies to "Andante". This quasi-science-fiction film from director Assaf Tager is one of the first of its kind to emerge from Israel, and the synopsis might have one thinking for a minute that this is the Hebrew answer to "Inception". What it really wants to be is "Eraserhead". In fact, what it ends up being is a long, frustrating, and ultimately pointless experience.


God help anyone who happens upon this one with no foreknowledge of the plot. The synopsis above reflects what I knew going in, but throughout the runtime I found myself questioning the reliability of the summary's author. There are a lot of interesting shots, camera tricks, pyrokinetics, intense sound design, etc., but the premise is little more than a thinly-veiled excuse to host a number of warehouse- and refinery-set performance art pieces. The characters are uniformly uninteresting and rarely discuss anything pertinent, and when there is dialogue it's of the rambling and suffocatingly pretentious variety, so consistently disconnected that it comes across as the filmmakers' intentions and not something lost in translation. Dreamstate or no, most of their exchanges are damningly close to what one might expect to hear in an obtusely dead serious perfume commercial. And yes, I completely get that some will defend this approach as an attempt to simulate dream logic and establish the kind of elusive atmosphere that David Lynch did so well in "Eraserhead". Lynch's classic is, for my money, hands-down one of the best Art films ever made, and managed to balance a disturbingly unique post-industrial vision with flourishes of pathos, humor, shock, and even wonder. Its story may not have been conventional, but it was definitely there. And it was never, ever dull.

But in "Andante", we far too early become far too aware of the routine in effect, each scene eventually topping out with a key centerpiece that plays like an extended coda for an already overly long composition. Here's what ends up happening each and every time: we're shown an undeniably breathtaking visual or series or visuals that are accompanied by a minimal but bombastic industrial soundtrack. The camera finds a spot and locks into place, and in many cases so do the performers. Then, over the course of the next six minutes or so, we go from being suitably impressed by the visuals, to wondering if anything else is going to happen, to picking apart the technical aspects of everything we see and hear because there's nothing else left to do, and then, finally, boredom sets in. And one has to wonder if this isn't the worst kind of boredom imaginable, the kind with loud, incessant clanging and banging over a visual feedback loop. Maybe that's what hell is like, with every potentially interesting thing locked into a perpetual repeat that soon becomes infuriating. And maybe this is Tager's intent. But all I can see is a whole lot of missed opportunity. On the bright side, however, it could at least qualify as the best music video that industrial noise artists Einsturzende Neubauten never made.

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Kai (8 years ago) Reply

Pretty much nailed it.

So, so sad walking out of the theater. This is the biggest missed opportunity I have ever seen come out of Israel.

Press kit said it was originally devised as an opera. Whoop dee doo. If you're making a film, flesh out the narrative. Press kit also said he collaborated with the actors on the script. This film is the best argument I've seen against this approach.

Assaf is a very intelligent person, a talented musician and evidently, a gifted visual artist. Still not enough to make the storyteller an ambitious piece like this needs.


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