Teaser Trailer for Avi Nesher's Monkey Garden/United King Films
This weekend, "Monkey Garden", Avi Nesher's new film, premieres. If his statements in media interviews are to be believed, this will also be his last film. Personally, I believe that as usual, cinema will be stronger than life and the veteran filmmaker will return to direct, but if, God forbid, this is indeed the swan song: this is an interesting and appropriate summary of the prolific filmmaker's career.
Assuming that this is indeed the director's retirement film, this means that he will no longer win the Ophir Award. Nesher is the most successful filmmaker in the history of contemporary Israeli cinema: his first two films, "The Band" and "Dizengoff 99" became a cult; And every new film since "The End of the World to the Left" twenty years ago has sold around a quarter of a million tickets, and sometimes more. Despite this, the filmmaker and his works have never received recognition from the Israeli Film Academy.
The tension between creation and recognition is also found in "Monkey Garden", although in this case the plot does not take place in the world of cinema but in the literary quagmire. This is because the script is based on a story that really took place, and was centered on some Israeli writer. Who? I'll leave the detective work to you. Let's just say that this is the kind of story that transcends any imagination.
Exceeds every daemon. From Monkey Garden/United King
The author, who is presented here of course under a pseudonym, is played by Adir Miller. The media, the establishment and academia despise him and ignore him. This frustrates him so much that he decides to carry out a scheme that, if it weren't so pathetic, could be said to be incredibly cunning.
We will not reveal why the film is called "Monkey Garden," nor will we reveal the details of the plot. Let's just say that the writer also involves a young woman, played by Susanna Papian, who, thanks to this film and the series "Sobitska", went from complete obscurity to becoming one of the hottest actresses in the country. The character she plays has not the faintest idea in the literary world, but she has acting skills - and that's what the writer needs from her.
The endless gallery of characters also includes a woman with whom the author has been secretly in love for many years, played by Shani Cohen. The feeling is that everyone who has ever passed by Keshet's building is in this film: Yaniv Biton is here too, and Eran Zarhovitch as a literary critic who turns out to have no sexual desire, perhaps because he derives enough pleasure from killing the hero of "Monkey Garden".
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Discovery of the year. Susanna Papian in "Monkey Garden" / Ziv Berkowitz
However, the important supporting character in the plot turns out to be a film director, played by Ala Daqa. In addition to allowing "Monkey Garden" to deal with questions of ethnic identity in Israel, it allows it to unfold as a film within a film – a structure that Nesher also used in his previous work, "The Picture of Victory."
On the face of it, "Monkey Garden" is a film about an artist's need for recognition – it's tempting to buy this interpretation, partly because it ostensibly corresponds with Nesher's story vis-à-vis the Israeli establishment. But it would be a superficial reading: partly because, unlike the film's protagonist, the veteran filmmaker has never done anything extraordinary to right the injustice done to him by the Academy, and partly because that's not the direction the script is going. As the plot progresses, it also becomes clear that it deals with bigger questions. For example, the tension between truth and falsehood, reality and illusion, and life as an act of creation - a story that everyone tells himself and others.
As befits a consistent director, this is exactly what Nesher dealt with in "The Victory Picture." But then, he described how both sides fighting in the War of Independence used the camera to build a different narrative about his achievements in the war. This time, those who invent the stories are not countries the size of Israel and Egypt, but simple people – artists who are not very successful. The gap between the complexity of their inventions and how small they are in the big picture turns out to be the emotional anchor of the film, and it's heartbreaking.
The important supporting character in the film. Ala Daka at Monkey Garden / Ziv Berkowitz, courtesy of United King Films
A "monkey garden" may be the last chance to correct a common misconception about an eagle. Because of his popularity, because his films are star-studded, because of his official personality - there is a tendency to see him as a kind of Rami Kleinstein of cinema. In fact, if you compare him to anyone, then for example Brian De Palma: a filmmaker who worked between the center and the fringes of Hollywood, creating challenging and even experimental films that nevertheless appealed to a relatively wide audience.
Like him, Nesher enjoys engaging in eye-catching, and basing the balance of power between the characters on seduction. It's clear to us that the characters here are trying to seduce each other, it's just not clear who is whom and why, and the script maintains the tension. As with De Palma, many of the Israeli director's films are thrillers that ostensibly have something cheap about them because of their sexuality and extroversion, but are actually sophisticated, bastardized and orchestrated. This was true, for example, of "Sins" and "Another Story" – and it is true this time too.
Despite the use of stars of "Wonderful Land", despite the fact that he is popular in cities such as Raanana and Modiin, despite the fact that he is a good friend of Trooper - it would be a mistake to think that Avi Nesher Sahi's cinema is (not that there is anything wrong with that, by the way). In fact, it is cinema whose main source of inspiration are American thrillers with a twist from the 1970s; cinema that deals with the dark personalities of eccentric personalities; A cinema that seems to be operated by the audience, but actually activates the audience.
Last chance. From "Monkey Garden" / Ziv Berkowitz
Nesher is a wizard at activating viewers and therefore "Monkey Garden", according to all estimates, will sell a quarter of a million tickets. The audience that will come will enjoy, and it also seems that all the actors here enjoy working with the filmmaker and are even grateful for the opportunity. It is likely that had he continued directing, discovery Susanna Papian would have developed a long-term partnership with him, as he had previously had with Joy Rieger. And maybe it will happen after all?
And if that's the end, it's an opportunity to return to a brilliant article published last year by Yair Raveh. The critic and researcher argued that Nesher's films have one common denominator: they end with a "fake happy ending" – a false representation of a sweet ending that hides a much more complex reality. This is especially true of Monkey Garden, which presents one of the most bittersweet endings of the director's career. And maybe that's why he has to direct another movie: for once, leave us with a movie that has a real happy end.
- More on the subject:
- Avi Nesher
- Adir Miller
- Yaniv Biton
- Shani Cohen
- Eran Zarhovitch
- Ala Daqa