Yossi & Jagger
review by Elias Savada, 5 December 2003

Yossi & Jagger doesn't quite translate. A hit in its native Israel, this Hebrew-language, English-subtitled military drama about relationships (one secretly gay, the others obviously promiscuous or repugnantly corrupt) among a group of bored, horny soldiers lacks enough intensity to be taken very seriously. There are apparently a few popular Israeli tunes that have added to its local success, but the synthetic music won't ever hit the American charts. Less than a dozen men and two women, irresolutely stationed at a remote Northern outpost along the Lebanese border, are surrounded by fields of snow and barbed-wire fence. Boredom is rampant. Military intelligence is the oxymoron du jour. This is not the homeland that Jewish Americans recall as the land of milk and honey. Something has soured in this no man's land situated somewhere between hell and the promised land.

This 71-minute hand-held, digital-to film feature made for Israel Cable Programming in 2002 by New York City-born, Jerusalem-raised Eytan Fox is based on a true story about a career officer and his sensitive second-in-command. They have not told anyone, friend or family, of their hush-hush affair, lest they be drummed out of the military (so much for the army being a closed-knit family). The outpost, having been re-manned after a brief furlough, finds the grunt soldiers exhausting themselves digging a ditch to bury a pile of rancid meat, spoiled during their absence for lack of power to their refrigerator. Logically, I wonder how, if it's so cold in this claustrophobic settlement, that the food could actually warm and spoil. Or burn the rotten meat. Anyway the company commander Yossi (Ohad Knoller) and platoon leader Lior Machai (Yehuda Levi), affectionately nicknamed Jagger for his rock star locks, heat up the scenery with a fight. A private snow fight, that is, which precludes a sexy dalliance that melts the snow around them.

When their superior, the belligerent colonel Yoel (Sharon Regniano) arrives unexpectedly for a yet-to-be-announced mission, he's more anxious to sample the culinary wares of the resourceful cook Yaniv (Erez Kahana) who creates an ingenious dish culled from the non-spoiled staples left in his kitchen. When he's not boorish, the macho-man colonel is getting serviced by Goldie (Hani Furstenberg), a sexy blonde recruit with David Letterman set of teeth who doesn't seem to mind that her boss has only one "chore" for her. She's in the army to have fun!

Goldie's sultry brunette companion Yaeli (Aya Koren) has her sights on heartthrob Jagger, unaware of his sexual leanings. That there's something different about him. Ofir (Assi Cohen) is the company's jealous schemer and anxious to get into Yaeli's pants. Even Shakespeare can't be this bad, can it?

When Yoel decides to send the men out on a "hot ambush," I wonder if that's some Kama Sutra position other than the lame, and ultimately tragic, military exercise it becomes. The soldiers wonder about the operation as well, heading out into enemy territory under a full moon.

Okay. Okay. The acting is passable and the two leads are pretty fellows. The film's production design is dull, gray grunge. The landscape is cold, murky, dissolute. In this setting, every soldier wants to make love, not war. Yossi & Jagger is an economically short piece, with a sentimental postscript that barely makes sitting through it worthwhile. Soldiering in the Israeli Army never looked so bad.

Directed by:
Eytan Fox

Starring:
Ohad Knoller
Yehuda Levi
Assi Cohen
Aya Koren
Hani Furstenberg
Erez Kahana
Sharon Regniano

Written by:
Avner Bernheimer

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.

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