Isræl has traditionally been one of the least interesting corners of the world movie market, and few people are more hostile toward Isræli films than Isræli moviegoers — a fairly demanding crowd who prefer big-budget Hollywood knockabout and escapism to the local low-budget fumbling. “Yom Yom” is a rather typical Isræli feature: a cheaply-made, verbose, clumsy effort which tries to mirror the current socio-economic mess in the Holy Land through heavy-handed symbolism. The only reason the 1998 “Yom Yom” is coming to U.S. cinemas now is because of its director Amos Gitai, who has achieved a mild degree of international respect for his more recent films “Kadosh” and “Kippur.”
“Yom Yom” focuses on the unlikely world of Moshe, a morose middle-aged whiner who works in the bakery run by his Jewish mother and Arab father. Moshe’s long-fraying marriage to the equally unattractive Didi has finally snapped and they separate, allowing him to pursue the younger and more vivacious Grisha. Alas, Grisha is fooling around with Moshe’s shaggy-haired best friend Jules, who also enjoyed a bit on the side with Didi. Meanwhile, Moshe’s dad is caught in an internal conflict concerning whether he should sell family property to an unsavory Isræli real estate agent. And on the outside looking in is Mimi, Moshe’s cousin who works as an officer in a traffic control center and follows the unfolding drama on the television monitors at her job.
“Yom Yom” may have some significance to Isræli society, but outside of the Holy Land the film is something of an endurance test on all levels. Gitai’s direction is static and frequently stagnant, with excessively long takes packed with monotonous palaver and virtually no action. Every now and then something unexpected takes place — Jules engages in quickie sex with a gal pal in the backroom of Moshe’s family bakery, Moshe and Jules carry a bulky TV up a long stairwell, a la Laurel and Hardy in “The Music Box” — but the pacing and camerawork for these diversions are surprisingly amateurish (why does the camera focus on Jules’ feet when he is having fun in the bakery backroom?).
The film takes places in Haifa, but there is nothing here to differentiate the location from any other city in Isræl. The characters and their situations are less than exciting, and the performances (especially Moshe Ivgi as the sour Moshe) are so distant that the cast gives the impression that they were pre-occupied with other matters while delivering their performances.
One interesting footnote to this otherwise forgettable effort is the presence of Hanna Maron, who plays Moshe’s mother. Ms. Maron began her career 70 years ago as a child actress in Germany by co-starring in one of the greatest films ever made: Fritz Lang’s classic “M.” Between “M” and “Yom Yom” Ms. Maron became known (according to the film’s press kit) as the first lady of Isræli theater. It is a shame that Gitai, who began his career as a documentary filmmaker, hasn’t made a feature on the life and career of Ms. Maron, for that would be a story far more intriguing and entertaining than his sluggish and feeble “Yom Yom.”