August: A Moment Before the Eruption

(Avi Mograbi, Israel/France, 2002)


If Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room, 2001) must forever suffer the indignity of being called ‘the Italian Woody Allen’, let us now turn the tables and baptise Avi Mograbi the Israeli Nanni Moretti.

Like Moretti, Mograbi writes, directs and appears in his own work – indeed, he not only plays himself here, but also his concerned wife and hectoring producer, in cute split-screen arrangements.

Like Moretti, he uses cinema or video as an ongoing diary-notebook form; and he likewise contrasts the neurotic fractures in his normal, daily life with the national, political turbulence all around him.

He sets out, in August, simply to record the ‘mood of the moment’ – but what is that mood, anxious, funny, optimistic, pessimistic? He tries out all the possibilities in a freewheeling way.

When Mograbi hits the streets as a freelance documentarian, he resembles less Moretti than the Abbas Kiarostami of Close-Up (1990) – his active onlooker role is foregrounded as everyone inquires who he is and why he’s there. And we may start to wonder, after a while, how much of this ‘reality’ is staged and how much of it is simply surreal to begin with.

And there is also, in true Godard style, fragments of auditions for the ‘real’ film Mograbi never quite gets to make – the acted, Brechtian recitation of a monologue by "the wife of the Hebron mass murderer".

While full of references to topical issues and events, Mograbi’s work pushes its politics lightly, and diverts us into the human comedy at every possible opportunity.

© Adrian Martin June 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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