Much is taken for granted in Carmel, Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai's highly—almost exclusively—personal film collage. An assembly of documentary and fictional fragments meant to cohere into a kind of abridged, impressionistic memoir, Carmel presupposes at least a passing familiarity with Israeli history and a more serious acquaintance with (and interest in) Gitai's previous work and personal and political preoccupations. (Often, these were one and the same: Almost all of his films, including Field Diary, Kadosh, and Free Zone, deal with the Israeli people and their plight.) Carmel moves between discrete segments, some jarring and muddled—as with a Jeanne Moreau–narrated treatment of the Jewish-Roman War, rendered almost incoherent by overlapping imagery, voices, and languages—and some, like an opera-driven sequence involving an actress playing Gitai's mother, Efratia (which highlights his affection for the long, liquid take), elegantly executed if inscrutable in intent. For Gitai and his kin, several of whom appear to read or listen to Efratia's descriptive, searching letters about growing older and Israel's uncertain future, Carmel likely functions as an invaluable if idiosyncratic scrapbook. (Gitai's boyhood letters from a kibbutz are also featured.) Unfortunately, the viewer is left out of the equation.
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