The thing that separates these Israeli films from your average American film is charm. The budgets are small by our standards. There are no special effects. It’s almost as if these films know that they need to keep your attention by having likable, engaging characters. Never perfect characters, mind you. Often they’re annoying, petty, selfish or mean—but always very endearingly human.
It’s sort of fitting that we saw Little Simico’s Big Fantasy on the last day of the Israeli Film Festival. This is the story of a young Israeli man who works in his uncle’s (?) hummus shop and becomes struck with inspiration to make a movie.
Simico goes to a bachelor party at a strip club and would rather talk to the girls about why they strip than have them rub up against them. After he gets them all thrown out, he comes up with an idea about a down-on-his-luck guy who falls in love with a stripper/hooker whose pimp then tries to kill him. (Rather cutely saying, “it’s never been done!” But maybe ‘90s B-movies haven’t made it there yet.)
The movie then becomes the story of Simico’s struggle to get his movie made. He auditions for actors and everyone in the village, it seems, comes for a part, no matter how appropriate. His buddies angle for scenes where they get to rub up against the girls, and he’s all to happy to lead them on to get them on the crew, to get money from them, or to use their shops as locations—but like any great auteur, he’s not to keen on taking instructions from them.
And everyone, of course, has ideas.
This is a pretty standard genre, of course: The creative, artistic guy in a world of stodgy workaday folk, and this is a fun movie that doesn’t pander (as is common) to the creative side. Simico is admirable in a lot of ways, but his obsession is all-consuming and causes him to treat his friends badly sometimes. Meanwhile his friends abandon him when things get rough, or when they figure there’s nothing in it for them personally.
The acting is wonderful, to where you forget that these are actors, playing parts. The movie has an organic feel, like you’re actually watching the events unfold as they happen. Not like with a shaky-cam/reality-show aspect, but with non-intrusive film-making.
The Boy and I both approved. You probably won’t have a chance to see this, any more than any of the other Israeli films, but if you do, it’s worth checking out.