By Roger Costa
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, many Russian/Jews immigrated to Israel in search of a fresh start. Victor and Raya are among those arriving in the Holy Land, carrying nothing but their talented voices- a gift that earned them prestige back then, when they were the main voice dubbing couple for the American movies showing locally. They try their best to mingle with their new community and national culture, but the goal is to get back to the movie industry. It’s all they love, it’s all they can do. The jobs opportunities are not really favorable, until one call comes along and might be the answer for their professional anxiety. She attends the job interview and learns the company is seeking a woman to perform sexual services through the phone, a profitable calling-in service very popular among horny, lonely Russians willing to pay big money. At first she declines it, and only tells her husband, the job isn’t fit for her. Later, she decides to venture herself into the offer, and rapidly becomes a notorious erotic “telemarketer” using all of her voice skills. On the other side of town, her husband gets fed up with his boring job of delivering community announcements and gets involved in a risky operation, partnering with local business owners who run a criminal operation of movie piracy and dubbing. As they experience different levels of new freedom and new capitalism, seeking to find the dream job and fill their empty routines, they realize their marriage is also at stake, sinking from cold to abandon, from passionless to lies. She becomes utterly involved with a frequent caller, even arranging for a blind date, as she discloses to him through the phone that “she is a bored wife seeking to experience different adventures”. That decision leads to a deeper analysis of their situation and marital condition, as well as their persistence to honor their movies-related profession. Brilliantly performed, cynically funny and affectingly moving, this dramatic deadpan comedy goes through history and serious issues to conceive a love letter to cinema and the sacrifices one must make in order to start from scratch a new journey. Directed by Belarus-born Israeli-based Award-winning filmmaker Evgeny Ruman, it is a movie that will make you laugh and melt your heart at equal measures- especially if you are a cinephile. Addressing the immigrant condition, moral, political and social dilemmas with tenderness and preciseness, Ruman scores a timely dramedy about surviving evolving times.
(Music Box Films. 10/8. Quad Cinema, NYC.)
An amazingly crafted horror fantasy that keeps the audience entertained and shocked throughout the entire narrative, Taiwanese/American director John Hsu’s feature length debut certainly announces him as a major filmmaker, a visionary young mainstream auteur who is ready to conquer greater fields. See it for yourself and you’ll agree with the incredible talent and commitment demonstrated here, a vigorous and electrifying adaptation of the eponymous videogame. Set in 1962, during the Martial Law that ruled no-one could have in their possession banned books with communist content, the film follows the extreme adventure of a school girl, who enters a violent world of torture and bloodshed when she’s haunted by evil forces taking over her school and everyone in it. Part of a secret book club, she is romantically involved to her counselor, with whom she will try to figure out how to survive the nightmare. Using the authoritarian regime to mirror the unbalanced forms the world is currently being shaped by its governmental leaders, Hsu crafts a visually striking, superbly edited and intensely shot horror adventure that is a feast for the eyes. Its set designs and visual effects reportedly didn’t cost much, but they are undeniably perfect and inventive, an example of the director’s skillful hands, on his path to achieve stardom. Winner of the Golden Horse Award for Best New Director, Screenplay, Visual Effects and others, it is a stunning labyrinth horror feast, with a powerful political message about oppressive dictatorship, one of this year’s most refreshing and inventive scary films.
(Dekanalog. 10/8. In Theaters and On Digital Platforms.)