We are delighted to announce that Jean Oppenheimer, Los Angeles correspondent for American Cinematographer and other publications, will submit film reviews to writersblocpresents.com. She served for three terms as president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times syndicate. You also caught her on KPCC’s Film Week. The review below is Jean’s second contribution to writersblocpresents.com.
Footnote is a deceptive film, a comedy that slowly devolves into tragedy. A nominee for this year’s Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar (it lost to A Separation) the Israeli picture is set in the world of academia, where ambition, jealousy and political infighting pass for intramural sports. Imaginatively conceived and cleverly plotted, Footnote concerns a father and son, both professors of Talmudic Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Eliezer (Shlomo Bar Aba) has never achieved the recognition and respect he feels he deserves and has become an angry, bitter man. Much of his hostility and jealousy is directed against his son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), a rising star in the department and the darling of the academic establishment that Eliezer both despises and longs to join. While Uriel revels in his golden boy status, he also believes that his father has been unjustly over-looked. Unwittingly he finds himself in a position to do something about it –- but at the cost of his own career.
The story doesn’t follow the expected trajectory and the quandary that writer/director Joseph Cedar (Beaufort, Time of Favor) places his characters –- and his audience –- in more than justifies the Best Screenplay Award Footnote picked up at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Highly stylized (bold colors, high contrast lighting, surrealistic touches), the film has a comedic sensibility that alternates between deadpan and absurdist. The humor is both visual and situational –- and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. A dramatic turn late in the film, however, knocks the wind out of the comedy, and the real issues at play in the story –- trust, honor, betrayal, vanity, sacrifice –- emerge, leading to a most disquieting ending.
Jean also recommends THE KID WITH A BIKE.