2018, R, 114 min. Directed by Samuel Maoz. Starring Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonaton Shiray, Dekel Adin, Yehuda Almagor, Gefen Barkai, Shira Haas, Itay Exlroad, Shaul Amir, Danny Isserles, Itamar Rotschild, Roi Miller, Arie Tcherner, Karin Ugowski, Yaakov Daniel Zada, Mussa Zhalka, Nimrod Levi, Gony Lidror.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., April 6, 2018
A knock on the door of a modernist Tel Aviv apartment is answered by a woman. Immediately realizing the significance of the visitors, she collapses into a seizure in the doorway. Her husband, seen in an adjoining room, stands rigid and shell-shocked. This is the opening shot of Israeli writer/director Samuel Moaz’s lyrical and metaphor-heavy second feature Foxtrot, after 2009's Lebanon. The visitors are soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces, and their presence means that the couple’s son has died in service. They immediately, with calm precision, sedate the mother, Daphna (Adler), and cart her off to bed. The father, Michael (Ashkenazi, mesmerizing), is told someone will be by to coordinate the funeral service, and one of the soldiers programs into Michael’s phone an hourly reminder to drink a glass of water. It’s all done with a depressing routine, just another notification of an untimely and senseless death, and when the soldiers leave, the tragedy of the event takes on a deeper hue, the camera oscillating between close-ups of the devastated Michael and bird’s-eye views of him drifting around the apartment, completely unmoored.
The nonlinear Foxtrot moves from the apartment to the desolate outpost that Michael’s son Jonathan (Shiray) is manning with three other soldiers. Their days consist of checking IDs of Palestinian motorists, letting errant camels through the checkpoint, and trying to stay sane in a life of boredom in the middle of nowhere. This section of the film is filled with hilariously deadpan humor: think Jarmusch or Kaurismäki. The soldiers live in an ever-sinking freight container and subsist on heated tins of some unidentifiable food. Soon enough, a misguided and unfortunate act of violence occurs, and a cover-up follows.
Apologies for the narrative obtuseness, but the film’s pleasures and surprises resonate distinctly as they unfold. The title refers to the dance, in which the participant ends in the same place they started. That should give you some idea of the themes the film traffics in. Moaz has crafted a film full of dark whimsy and irony, a multigenerational allegory on the cost of war. Shortlisted as Israel’s entry to the Best Foreign-Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, but ultimately not making the cut when the nominees were whittled down from nine to five, Foxtrot will surprise and enrage you. Yet there’s a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. With caustic wit and fantastic performances for all involved, the film is destined to be an anti-war classic. War, war never changes.
Kimberley Jones, Sept. 24, 2010
Nov. 20, 2020
Nov. 6, 2020
Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz, Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonaton Shiray, Dekel Adin, Yehuda Almagor, Gefen Barkai, Shira Haas, Itay Exlroad, Shaul Amir, Danny Isserles, Itamar Rotschild, Roi Miller, Arie Tcherner, Karin Ugowski, Yaakov Daniel Zada, Mussa Zhalka, Nimrod Levi, Gony Lidror