Combustible Celluloid
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With: Natalie Portman, Hana Laszlo, Hiam Abbass, Carmen Maura, Makram Khoury, Aki Avni, Uri Klauzner
Written by: Amos Gitai, Marie-Jose Sanselme
Directed by: Amos Gitai
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: English, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/19/2005

Free Zone (2006)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Zone'-ing Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The celebrated Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (Kadosh, Kippur) returns with an exceptional new feature film, Free Zone. Employing many of his trademark leisurely takes as well as unobtrusive, close-to-the-bone action shots, Free Zone chronicles a meeting between three women: a Palestinian, an Israeli and an American. Natalie Portman (who was born in Israel) stars in one of her most surprising roles as the American. The film opens with a truly remarkable shot of Portman's face. Lasting several minutes, the camera gazes at her as she fights off crying jags, recovering with deep breaths only to succumb to another fit of chokes and tears (her makeup runs into a vaguely feline pattern). All the while, a kind of novelty song plays on the radio, juxtaposing her sorrow. Having fought with her fiancée and his mother, and having nowhere else to go, she accompanies their driver, Hanna (Hana Laszlo -- who won Best Actress at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival) across the border into the "free zone," where they must complete a business transaction with a Palestinian woman (Hiam Abbass). During their trip, they see and experience many facets of life there, from violence to warmth. It may take time for American viewers -- especially those familiar with Portman's more mainstream fare -- to adjust to Gitai's deliberate, almost dreamy filmmaking style, but this wonderful film is worth the effort.

DVD Details: At last. After its pathetic theatrical run, Free Zone is finally availalbe for people to see. Natalie Portman fans, at least, should definitely give it a chance. New Yorker's 2007 DVD comes with a trailer and an 18-minute radio interview with Mr Gitai.

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