Restoration @ Montreal Israel Film Festival

restorationFilms are supposed to in part represent real life.  Real life is messy, at times slow and complex.  With these qualities in mind, director Jossi Madmoni’s film is the perfect depiction of real life.  It is a film about a regular man and his family and their everyday experiences.  There is nothing shocking or exciting going on here.  Just reality.

Mr. Fidelman (Sasson Gabai – Rambo III, The Band’s Visit) finds Max dead in his flat.  Max and Yaakov Fidelman ran an antique furniture restoration business together. The funeral takes place.  Yaakov discovers that the business is in serious financial trouble and he cannot get a loan to pay off the debt.  Max has left Noah, Yaakov’s son, his share of the business.

Noah wants Yaakov to fire Anton (Henry David), a young man who has just started working at the business, as they cannot afford to pay him.  Yaakov refuses claiming to need him and Anton keeps working there.  Father and son disagree about what to do with business.  Noah wants to sell property whereas Yaakov wants to keep the business going. Son still tries to convince father that the business without Max is nothing and father and son fight.

Noah’s wife Hava (Sarah Adler – Marie Antoinette), who is very pregnant, hears Anton playing a piano in the workshop.  He plays very well,  Anton remembers Noah’s wife was a singer.  Anton tells Yaakov that the piano in the shop is worth enough to get him out of debt.

An inspector comes to look at the piano.  There is a crack in the antique Steinway.  It would be worth $100,000 without a crack. Anton is determined to cast a new frame for the Steinway.  He and Yaakov grow close with Anton even beginning to live with his boss.

Noah does not trust Anton especially after he finds out he is from a rich family and they are looking for him.  The rift between father and son deepens. Is this family falling apart?  Will Anton be able to fix the piano and save Yaakov’s business?

A strained relationship between father and son makes for interesting viewing.  It, however, is slow and drawn out.  The only excitement in the film is provided by the character Anton. He is part of two triangles found within the film.  He is caught up with a father and son as well as a wife and husband.  Everything seems to revolve around this mysterious character.

Though the film rolls along at an even pace.  Don’t make the mistake of indicating that to mean nothing is going on.  Plenty is happening in this complex and mature film.  On the surface it might appear like a simple film, but it is anything but.  There is plenty going on under the surface.

Director Jossi Madmoni is obviously not interested in big box office (with the pacing of the film not a ton of film fans will sit through it).  Rather he just wants to make a good film.  My favourite aspect of the film is the open ending.  Madmoni leaves it up for interpretation and as many people who see the film that is how many versions there will be.

While the entire cast is strong, Sasson Gabai turns in another solid performance.  He becomes the quiet, but stubborn Yaakov.  His nuanced portrayal makes us care about this crabby man.  We are drawn in and end up caring about him despite ourselves.

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