Saturday, June 6, 2020

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Peaches and Cream

I’m pleased to be covering the 8th Annual Israel Film Center Festival at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, which is running virtually June 7th-14th.

Peaches and Cream
Directed by Gur Bentwich
Available June 6 – June 7

Filmmakers are usually interesting subjects, because of that old expression that art imitates life. While many directors choose topics and stories that don’t relate at all to their own experiences, it’s likely that a good deal of what they’ve gone through and seen in life affects what they portray on screen, and at the very least it informs their perspective and what ideas they express. Not every film is a success, and it’s also possible to interpret what a hit is given expectations and the intention of a project. Unsurprisingly, how a work is received can have a strong effect on its creator.

Zuri (Gur Bentwich) attends the opening night screening of his new film with his girlfriend and editor Inbal (Maya Kenig). Disappointed by the size of the audience and lackluster reception, he gets into a cab and, finding little support from Inbal, determines that he is sick and must go straight to the hospital. What ensues is a seemingly neverending night, particularly for the haggard cabbie, Micho (Dover Koshashvili), who just wants to get paid as his passenger sends him all around town, encountering an old friend (Alon Aboutboul), a young social media star (Hadas Ben Aroya), and his powerful producer (Tzahi Grad) as he searches for affirmation that his movie means something.

Bentwich serves as writer, director, and star, burying Zuri under a thick, unkempt beard and dressing him in a hooded yellow sweatshirt that Inbal points out makes him seem like he’s living in a completely different place and makes him look much older than he actually is. In contrast, he’s shown in a much more presentable manner through flashes to an undefined time where he sits alone on a private jet, headed to a major event with a flight attendant doting on him as he edits the footage of much of what plays out on screen. That device feels like a commentary on how it might be nice to edit life the way artists construct movies, well aware that the lowest points of a person’s life are often the most inherently cinematic.

This movie feels a bit like a frantic fever dream, with Micho serving as a stand-in for the audience to realize just how unlikely it is that he’ll ever see the money on the increasing meter since Zuri doesn’t actually know how to find what he’s looking for. It’s entirely engaging, even if it’s hard to know where it will lead. Koshashvili and Ben Aroya deservedly took home Israeli Oscars for their performances, while Bentwich picked up nominations for his direction and writing but not his lead turn, which is decent but, smartly, not what the film depends on to push ahead. It’s a head trip that says plenty about what it means to invest yourself so much in something that it takes over your life, presented in a creative and entertaining way.


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