Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What a Wonderful Place

Eize Makom Nifla; Drama, Israel, 2005; D: Eyal Halfon, S: Uri Gavriel, Evelyn Kaplun, Avi Oriah, Raymond Bagatsing, Yossi Graber, Yoav Hait, Chedpong Laoyant, Mymy Davao, Marina Choif, Evelin Hagoel

Franco, an ex-cop, now works for a mobster in order to repay his debt. He gathers numerous girls from Eastern Europe, among them Jana and Julia, and smuggles them across the border into Israel in order to force them to become prostitutes. At home, he pretends to be a normal family man. Yet, he becomes friends with Jana and is touched by her story about her daughter...Philippine immigrants Eddie and Nenny want to have a baby, but can't due to their infertility. In order to pay for the treatment, Eddie nurses the old Mr. Aloni, who is bound to a wheelchair. Eddie goes to gamble, but his wife protests, and thus the mobster, owner of the casino, puts out a cigarette on her head...Zeltzer is an overweight plantation owner who employs numerous foreign workers, among others Vissit. He discovers his wife is cheating on him. In the end, Franco releases all the prostitutes and the police arrest him and all the pimps who held them. Mr. Aloni shoots the mobster and then kills himself.

Anthology drama "What a Wonderful Place" is another quality made film from Israel equipped with fine pace, realistic characters, smooth structure and touching moments, but it came just a few years too late after similar works from Iñárritu, Altman and Haggis. Quite simply, the three separate, but intertwined stories revolving around foreign workers in Israel are well conceptualized, becoming one in the end, yet somehow not that gripping since the viewers are already used to that trick. Also, one story, the one revolving around Zeltzer, is wavering and could have easily been eliminated, since the highlight is definitely the one revolving around the Eastern European girls who were forced to prostitution: there the director Eyal Halfon shows himself in top notch form, never resorting to empty pace like in the rest of the two stories. Evelyn Kaplun shines there as Jana and Uri Gavriel as her captivator Franco, working for her pimp, but they somehow become friends. In the best scene of the film, Franco is eating a sandwich but some mayonnaise falls on his pants. He tries to clean up the stain, but can't, thus one of the prostitutes takes a bottle of alcohol and a napkin and tries to remove it for him, but accidentally spills it and makes an ever bigger stain, making all the girls erupt in laughter. Franco doesn't know what to do and takes his pants off on demand of one of the girls who wants to wash it, but just then his colleagues enters the room and spots him with his pants down, making the girls laugh even harder. It's a wonderful moment because it's so real and authentic, and it would have been great if the film had more of them, though Franco's transformation into a good guy fits well into the theme of redemption.


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