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Wednesday, Dec 31 2008

Gay film slipped palatably out of Israel's closet with the films of Eytan Fox, who with his partner Gal Uchovsky made Yossi & Jagger, The Bubble, and the subliminally homoerotic Walk on Water. But writer-director Yair Hochner takes it to a daring new level that both invites and challenges the mainstream audience. Like The Bubble, Antarctica takes urban loneliness as its subject, but though all the characters are strikingly attractive, there's nothing frothy or pandering about Hochner's hermetic homosexual world—mothers and siblings included—where uncompromising carnality and an endless supply of ring-tones define the shifting couplings of gay men and lesbians ineptly looking for love and family in Tel Aviv, Israel's answer to New York. The script, by turns crisply iconoclastic, wistfully romantic, and sublimely silly (an alien landing is thrown in for the fun of it), supports Hochner's fluid juggling of tone. In what passes for escapism in Israeli film, Antarctica is resolutely apolitical, but there is a subversive politicking in its insistence on portraying gay life as is, promiscuity and all. Which may be why the only Israeli theater that would show this lovingly goofy tribute to John Waters is a cinematheque.

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Ella Taylor


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