Film review: Footnote

GRAEME TUCKET
Last updated 18:06 13/04/2012
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THE DEVIL YOU KNOW: Father and son are great allies and also great rivals in this excellent film.

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REVIEW: FOOTNOTE (103 min) (M)

Directed by Joseph Cedar. Starring Shlomo Bar'aba, Lior Ashkenazi.

Meet the Shkolniks, father and son, both labouring over aspects of Jewish history and Talmudic lore. The son is a populist, the author of best selling books, and the recipient of many a prize and accolade. The father is the more serious of the two; a dusty and embittered man, who has seen his life's work usurped by others' flash-in-the-pan discoveries, who has never received the acclaim which is quite possibly his due.

And then the phone rings, Professor Shkolnik is to be awarded the Israel Prize, the most prestigious prize of all. Only problem is, the son is also ''Professor Shkolni''. Has there been a mix up? Has a terrible mistake been made? And if so, will either of the professors be able to tell the truth. Will the son see his father humiliated. Or will the father deny the son a prize that he feels has not really been earned?

That is the knot at the centre of Footnotes, the fine and hugely entertaining film that was Israel's entry for the best foreign language Academy Award last year.

It doesn't necessarily sound like the stuff of a compelling drama, or at least not one that could sustain interest over 100 minutes, but Footnote does fine. This is a deft and thought-provoking piece, with much to say about families, fathers and sons, aging, careers - and the way they come to define the lives of people who have lost their bonds with everyone outside of the work place - and the fractious and overtly militarised state of modern Israel.

At times Footnote is as funny as a better than average recent Woody Allen, and at times it is as dark and reflective as the best of any modern European cinema. Terrifically cast, expertly put together, and sporting one of the most inventive sound-edits I've ever heard, Footnote is a rewarding watch. Well worth a look.

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- The Dominion Post

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