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Waltz With Bashir
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Reviewed on 2009-02-28
Received[2.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreAnimation / Documentary / Drama / War
This Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning foreign language film from Israel is written, directed and produced by Ari Folman.

The movie actually fits in three different categories. It is a documentary, an animated film and the dialogue is in a foreign language.

Animation is a rare commodity and unique attraction in Israeli films. The Israeli Film Academy chose this film to represent the country after it won Israeli Oscars for best film, best director, best screenplay, best editing, best art direction and best sound. This respected body of filmmakers tends to endorse controversial, politically motivated movies that are critical of the government.

This film deals with the psychological ramifications of subconscious memory. It centers on the selective nature of our ability to recall past events and the blocking out of unpleasant, traumatic situations. This exercise in recall takes the viewer from various stages of memory to dreams and hallucinations.

The movie opens with a friend’s recurring nightmare of being chased by a pack of 26 ferocious dogs. Director Folman (playing himself) meets the friend at a bar and they conclude that there is a connection to their service in the Israeli military during the 1982 Lebanon War. Folman decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world to jog his memory.

The movie was videotaped with live actors first and then each frame was meticulously traced over by a small team of animators in a drawn-from-scratch, cut-out artistic style that resembles rotoscoping.

There is a nice variety to the look of the film with the use of different color schemes. The loud and pulsating background music will appeal to those whose tastes include synthpop, punk, post-punk and alternative rock.

This deeply disturbing film is for cinephiles wanting something distinctly different. It garnered rave reviews when first introduced at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals. It gives a surreal view of war time horrors and atrocities.

Folman uses the camera as a protective coping device to deny the reality of being an actual participant. This repressed dissociative state is compared to being on an LSD trip where you view an event as if outside it.

Rather than the “happily ever after” of a Disney cartoon, this animated re-enactment leads up to actual newsreel footage of the genocidal massacres of innocent Muslim civilians at the West Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The Israeli soldiers just stood by and did nothing as Christian Phalangists took bloody revenge on Palestinians in retaliation for the assassination of Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel.

The title of the movie is captured in a scene where soldiers dance the waltz armed with machine guns.

The current events in Gaza have boosted the popularity of this film. The movie makes its major points of emphasis and then restates them with repetitive scenes of naked gun-toting soldiers crossing a river.

Although an incredible artistic achievement, I felt uncomfortable sitting through this guilt-ridden memoir. The movie unfairly depicts the Israeli Defense Forces and purposefully omits the moral and military background of this conflict. No name or face is given to the enemy, while the Israeli soldiers are cast as mindless invaders caring little for human life.

Folman acknowledged in an interview that the “most important source of financing” and “principal sponsor” for his film was public television channel ARTE that is jointly funded by the German and French governments. ARTE also co-produced “Paradise Now,” which was an ode to a Palestinian suicide bomber.

This movie stirs up rage and hatred against Israel. It also invites comparisons to the evil perpetrated by Nazi Germany. I could not wait to get far away from this nearly unbearable and ultimately depressing experience. Although it clocks in at only 90 minutes, the running time seems much longer.

This darkly serious film is a glaring example of the wide gap in cinematic taste between American and European audiences.

The dialogue is primarily in Hebrew with large, easy-to-read English subtitles.

Now playing exclusively at AMC Studio 30 and Cinemark Palace on the Plaza.

Review By:
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"


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