Oscar tag a draw for tedious drama

Dull: Lior Ashkenazi, left, as Uriel Shkolnik, and Shlomo Bar Aba, as Eliezer Shkolnik, in Footnote.
Dull: Lior Ashkenazi, left, as Uriel Shkolnik, and Shlomo Bar Aba, as Eliezer Shkolnik, in Footnote.

PG, 1hr 43min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp 

This collection of intellectual tommy-rot about two eccentric Israeli professors is an instant cure for anyone afflicted with insomnia.

And yet the Israelis submitted Footnote for the Academy Awards foreign film, and somehow got it shortlisted.

The Oscar tag can be the only reason for patrons paying to watch such tedious drama. It duped me.

I felt for the poor Academy members who had to snore through it. While Footnote wasn't as perplexing as the complex Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it just wasn't anything.

It caught me by surprise because Israel has turned out some fine stuff: Lemon Tree (2008) and Lebanon (2009) relating to the Palestinian and Lebanese conflicts.

I can't even figure any reason to give Footnote half a star other than to reward the Cinema Gold projectionist for having the courage to feed it on to the reel.

The movie, with dialogue in Hebrew with subtitles, is about the Shkolniks, father and son professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They are jealous of each other's accomplishments in the study of the Jerusalem Talmud, fourth and fifth century Rabbinic notes. The father is a stubborn dryballs, the well-bearded son more generous, but their relationship is so unhealthy that they almost never speak.

They are philologists, linguists who study written texts, hardly a profession suitable for a film, and both believe they are to be awarded Israel's highest prize.

Time Magazine called it a human comedy, and yet there's not a single giggle in the whole darned thing.

It would have been a bolter had not a few paying patrons blocked my escape route. One of them afterwards declared it excellent fare, but left in a huff when I suggested it was a cinematic sleeping pill.

Perhaps all the philologists and Talmud scholars in Manawatu flocked to see it.

Manawatu Standard