The Gatekeepers

Six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security agency, discuss their takes on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Along the way, they offer, among other things, justifications of torture and targeted assassinations that are about as stone-cold as you would expect from a security professional. So when one of the older ones, who was apparently part of the team that brought Eichmann to justice, compares the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of (Christian) Poland, you sit up and take notice. In fact, these men are remarkably similar in their belief that peace with the Palestinians is possible — it is only a matter of Israeli will.

(The movie doesn’t say, but it appears from the Wikipedia page on the film that the Israeli filmmaker interviewed every head of Shin Bet since 1986 — in other words, he doesn’t appear to have cherry-picked.)

The interviews are juxtaposed with vignettes on the history of Israel since 1967. The horrors of the Intifada are not minimized — in fact, you get some scenes of bombed buses that are more graphic that what is usually seen on American TV. The movie spends some time with a lesser-known plot by Jewish terrorists to blow up the Dome of the Rock, which was foiled by Shin Bet.

You come away from this history with the sense that the biggest tragedy to befall Israel in the last 30 years was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who genuinely wanted peace. Prior to the assassination, the movie provides footage of increasingly ugly demonstrations against the Oslo Peace Process and Rabin personally. A prominent leader of those demonstrations, never mentioned by name but obvious in the footage, was Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Enough Said

Middle-aged divorced woman with shared custody of teen-aged daughter meets similarly situated man. They hit it off. Then she finds out her new boyfriend is the ex-husband of one of her friends. She knows what to do, but doesn’t do it.

This isn’t a particularly profound movie, but succeeds at telling its small story very well, with an emotional honesty that is rare in films. Julia Louise-Dreyfus, an actress I generally detest, gives a restrained, very convincing performance. James Gandolfini does very well in the part of a man with a non-glamorous job in the cesspool of glamor that is LA — about as far away from Tony Soprano as it is possible to get. His performance, along with the recurring jokes about his character’s weight, are particularly poignant, given that Gandolfini died shortly after this movie was released.

Parental note:  This film might be interesting to teenagers because of the scenes involving the two teenager and their relationships with their divorced parents and their new partners. On the other hand, be aware that the film treats high-school sex as a fact, albeit one not totally free from controversy.

Before Midnight

Here’s a summary of the first two movies, in case you haven’t seen them.

Boy meets Girl on train to Vienna. Boy and Girl spend the night tooling around Vienna. Before Sunrise, Girl invites Boy to continue on with her to Paris and see her etchings. Boy says he has to catch a plane. Boy and Girl both agree to meet one year hence, same time, same place.  We both know they won’t.

Nine years later. Boy has written successful book about his romantic encounter on the train. On a book tour in Paris, Girl shows up, and Before Sunset invites Boy to her apartment to see her etchings. Boy misses plane.

Current movie — nine more years later. Boy and Girl (now Man and Woman) are married, with successful careers and a family — two kids of their own plus joint custody of his son from his first marriage. On vacation in Greece, some friends offer to watch the kids so they can spend a night inspecting each others’ etchings at a luxury resort. They fight. Before Midnight, we find out whether their marriage survives or not.

I know this doesn’t sound like much. The arguments in particular will seem painfully familiar to long-married people. But the writing is outstanding, covers a wide range of issues, and is often surprisingly witty. Ultimately, the story suggests, the test of love may be not how you fight, but how (and whether) you make up.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, relatively unknown when this trilogy began, have now moved on to other projects. As far as I know, the two actors have never been an “item.” But they “sell,” this relationship, identifying with the fictional couple so much they each share screenwriting credits.

I hope to see them again in nine years.

Parental note:  This film gets an R rating for a couple of naked boob shots, which is silly. On the other hand, it doesn’t strike me as a film that would interest most kids, even older ones.