Thursday, July 7, 2016

Exploitative, offensive, sterile - you name it

I was recently in New York City and attended the Film Society of Lincoln Center. I’d been to several New York film art houses but this was the first time at the venerable Lincoln Center theaters located, appropriately enough, in a lower level off the side of the mammoth performing arts center on 65th Street. The purpose? To see the Israeli film Tikkun (Avishai Sivan, 2015), which had been getting quite favorable reviews. But this is one of these films where it might be argued there’s a vast gulf between the critical intelligentsia and average (art house) filmgoers. “Haunting, unnerving brilliance,” praised once critic. “Chilling surreal moments,” said another, “Impressively imaginative and stylish,” a third said. Alas, I beg to differ, and do so heartily (see below). But just don’t take my humble opinion. There were others that night in the theater. Like the flippant remarks of a couple of seatmates. Or the opinion of my companion, an astute and insightful friend who knows film and who was frankly “offended” by Tikkun. And there was the couple sitting a few rolls ahead of us who walked out in disgust. Okay, a small sample of views. But if this many – or few – felt this way it may be representative of a wider body of opinion – just maybe? Let's go to the film’s plot. It depicts an Orthodox Yeshiva student who, according to Tikkun's official description, experiences a crisis of faith, almost dies, and is brought back to life by his father. “Tikkun” in Hebrew means “fixing or rectification.” In the film, the healing is of the student Haim-Aaron (Aharon Traitel). He is a character somehow alienated from his faith. And he is also apparently alienated from anyone around him. He’s an empty vessel, emotionless, and moves through daily life like a sleepwalker. The film’s subtext seems to say that religion, in this case Hasidic Judaism, may be at fault. Sure, I’ll buy the argument. But you have to make it. This film provides no evidence. Instead the whole work is pretentious, showy, exploitative (it has the most gratuitous sexual scene I’ve ever watched), and sterile. Indeed, and ironically, Tikkun mimics its central character…..From what I can see Tikkun is not scheduled to be opening at any metro Detroit or Windsor theatre in the near future, if ever.

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