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MOVIE REVIEW

Fighters ambushed by their emotions

'Yossi and Jagger' is the terse, powerful story of two Israeli soldiers who have fallen in love amid a repressive 'don't ask, don't tell' atmosphere.

October 24, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

More than one filmmaker has suggested that the most effective antiwar picture might be a love story, and the tense, succinct Israeli film "Yossi and Jagger," based on a true story, makes a good case for that argument. Director Eytan Fox and writer Avner Bernheimer trust in the power of their story to evoke its own implications. They also understand the intimate nature of their material and resist stretching it beyond its 65 minutes.

The setting is a remote, snowy army base along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Amid a group of soldiers just completing an exhausting operation is its commanding officer, Yossi (Ohad Knoller), a stocky, strong-featured young man with dark, sensitive eyes. He's a mature, serious leader of men -- and is in love with one of his soldiers, Lior (Yehuda Levi), nicknamed Jagger in honor of Mick because of his lively personality and sense of humor. Jagger resents the "don't ask, don't tell" atmosphere of army life and is eager to take Yossi home to meet his family.

The well-liked Yossi and Jagger are discreet; if anyone in their unit suspects there's more to their friendship, he keeps it to himself. Ofir (Assi Cohen), however, is jealous of the attraction Jagger holds for the unsuspecting female soldier Yaeli (Aya Koren), whose comrade Goldie (Hani Furstenberg) is having a purely carnal affair with the ultra-macho colonel (Sharon Regniano) who is in charge of the base.

Fox captures the sexual tension that permeates the small base crowded with young men and two women; even though no one appears overtly homophobic, the base is not conducive to being openly gay.

Once the repressive situation in which Yossi and Jagger find themselves is established, Fox and Bernheimer step back to consider the larger situation in which all the soldiers find themselves, consequently wrapping up their film swiftly with a provocative, ironic effect that invites thoughts about love and war alike.

Performances are crisp, as is everything else about this vital, economical film, proof that less really can be more.

*

'Yossi and Jagger'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Adult themes, language, sexuality; too intense for children.

Ohad Knoller...Yossi

Yehuda Levi...Jagger

Assi Cohen...Ofir

Aya Koren...Yaeli

Hani Furstenberg...Goldie

Sharon Regniano...The Colonel

A Strand Releasing presentation of a Lama production. Director Eytan Fox. Producers Amir Hael & Gal Uchovski. Screenplay Avner Bernheimer. Cinematographer Yaron Scharf. Editor Yosef Grunfeld. Music Ivri Lider. Production designer Amir Dov Pick. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 5 minutes.

Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.

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