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Julian Schnabel's Miral: Muddle-East Politics

A U.N. premiere! A Vanessa Redgrave cameo! Zionist hoodlums! Distributors the Weinstein Company and director Julian Schnabel overcome their well-documented aversion to media attention to address the Israel-Palestine question, pleading peace, compromise, and the creation of a self-governing Palestinian state. While Jewish advocacy groups swarm to Schnabel’s bait, it bears noting that Miral is a very flat, fuddled movie, an at-odds-with-itself partisan work, its convictions diffused in a warm soak of style.

Schnabel’s fifth film, like most of its predecessors, has its roots in biography; the source is the fictionalized life story of Rula Jebreal, an Italian journalist of Palestinian origins, who adapted her own novel for the screenplay. Miral seeks to reflect the entwined destinies of the Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian people through both the personal history of the title character and the formative experiences of those (mostly women) who in turn would form her. The film is bracketed by the days just before Israel’s birth in 1948 and the 1993 Oslo peace accord, the failed promise of which is held up as a reprimand.

Like Jebreal, Miral (played as a child by Yolanda El Karam) was raised partly, in the ’80s, at the Dar Al-Tifel school in Jerusalem run by Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass). As in Jebreal’s multigenerational novel, Miral doesn’t take over the story bearing her name until the halfway point is in sight. The films opens with Husseini on her way to celebrate Christmas Eve 1947, at Jerusalem’s American Hotel. Paradise-lost nostalgia for an inclusive, cosmopolitan British Mandate for Palestine is followed by civil strife in the newly founded state of Israel, where Husseini adopts a group of war orphans, the first pupils in her charity school.

Details

Miral
Directed by Julian Schnabel
The Weinstein Company
Opens March 25

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Husseini endures through the ’67 Six-Day War, handing off the relay-storyline to Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri), whose abridged, unhappy life ends with her daughter’s inheriting the eponymous narrative. As the First Intifada (1987–93) demands choosing sides, teenage Miral (Freida Pinto) wavers between the militancy preached by handsome revolutionary Hani (Omar Metwally); the dictates of her pious father, Jamal (Alexander Siddig); and the nonviolent teachings of mentor Husseini—though Abbass’s moral authority is somewhat compromised by an aging makeup transformation that turns her into The Golden Girls’ Sophia. Casting Pinto, an Indian actress, as his lead complicates Schnabel’s gesture of solidarity with the cause of Palestinian self-determination. And though the Slumdog Millionaire actress is a supernal beauty, she never asserts an independent presence transcending “Radiant Face of Young Palestine” poster girl.

Schnabel’s dashed-glimpse style vitiates the efforts of his performers, but frees cinematographer Eric Gautier to improvise, as with a scene opening on a belly dancer’s twitching hip; the nocturnal-blue, blurry-subjective drunk-vision as Nadia weaves out of a bar; a p.o.v. suicide-by-drowning; the countdown during an attempted movie-theater bombing by a militant nurse, cut at an ever-accelerating tempo between an unsuspecting audience watching Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and the on-screen action. This scene dramatizes the dissonant idea of the nurturing-woman-turned-terrorist, as Hani’s fate will later illustrate the intra-Palestinian violence within the independence movement. Willem Dafoe appears as a U.S. officer sympathetic to Husseini’s humanitarianism; Stella Schnabel, the director’s daughter, as an open-minded young Jewish Israeli—credits to their people, both—while Redgrave, elder spokeswoman of Free Palestine, makes her symbolic appearance. Falling far short of the intuitive scene-to-scene storytelling the freewheeling camera implies, Miral is fussy checklist filmmaking, a scavenger hunt for the issues and representative characters that one simply must include in a panoramic survey of its subject.

Schnabel has done little to dam a sluggish river of stories and images to turn them into something powerful. Actual news footage of rock-hurling protesters blurs with scripted scenes of the Israeli army bulldozing a Palestinian home: These are pictures of people we scarcely know, suffering under circumstances we barely understand, and only further obscured by travelogue impressionism. For closing catharsis, Schnabel imports some maudlin Tom Waits caterwauling—a sure sign that this is the mediation of a sentimental American Boomer countless fathoms out of his depth. Hasn’t Jerusalem suffered enough?

 
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11 comments
MastreMayhem
MastreMayhem

EXACTLY! Tom Waits was the rusty nail in this coffin. I was squirming and fidgeting all through it, thinking "What a clever, stylish movie." I don't like to know I'm watching a "movie" till it's over, if ever. What the hell is the deal with Tom Waits anyway? Haven't you all yet figured out he's a slick huckster? Oh, you like that about him?! Go figure...

Also, you demented ranters that want to set fire to the Village Voice offices because they dared to print something, anything, that isn't rabidly pro Israeli are childish and silly. This was a film review, not a manifesto. Always looking for a fight, you guys are...

Lshanaa
Lshanaa

by the way, this is a completely TRUE STORY. rula jabreal did not make this up, so anybody criticizing this amazing, inspiring film is naive and are disgusting israel supporters. how can you criticize real life? how is it propoganda if it really happened?

Civis Israelensis sum
Civis Israelensis sum

Why would this woman Rula even want to look at an obese hasbeen like Schnabel who is old enough to be her father? She obviously looked for a naive Jewish sucker to film her Palestinian melodrama. Schnabel - no Samson - fell for this modern day Delilah. According to his apology of a movie the Palestinians are the innocent victims and the Israelis are the bad guys. Not a mention of Israeli civilians targeted by Palestinian terrorists. And the cherry on the top is having that ancient anti-Semitic hag Vanessa Redgrave appear in his movie!

Jinxy79
Jinxy79

I am never reading Village Voice again or ever advertising in the magazine again for allowing this anti semitic jerk write such a once sided review. Shame on you Village Voice!! I ban you for life.

Turk
Turk

this man, this godawful man, represents everything that is wrong with the world today FAR beyond the israeli-palestinian 'border'; but the answer to the last question is no, jerusalem has NOT suffered enough, nor has the israelite plight (or for that matter tragedy in general, personal or socio-collective, current or past) worth whatsoever that is not, in the estimation of this man and his ilk (safran foer, anyone? and, has anybody ever actually thought of jebreal herself as a "journalist", or "palestinian"?) a probable, (exploitative) means to reap benefit, "artistically" and/or financially.with that said, i think it is a mistake to reckon the existence of this movie anything more than a (successful) attempt by the mentioned largesse of said ego to stick his cock in a mouth of such rare (exotic even, perhaps), pretty, and young a culmination of (im)migratory cross-genes (arabic-italian AND a novelist? that's gold, jerry; gold!). so i guess in the end them ol' western "values" win again, no? oh by the way, the only thing surrounding this pretentious hack that is more corruptly and opportunistically overhyped than his ego HAS GOT to be his painting. yes, jebreal included.

Heklp
Heklp

Film sucked. Waste of money. Palestinian propaganda.

Let's see a movie about Palestinians hijacking airplanes, yeah - the real Palestinians. Not this B.S.

Missboo42
Missboo42

I do not know the religious beliefs of Ms. Pinto, but the name Pinto in India represents a Jewish heritage. So I am told by my only Indian (born there) friend. He said there are many Jewish-Indians in India and most are very successful. I would like to know if she does have a Jewish heritage because that would make Schnabel's choice for the role of a Palestinian make more sense. It is a shame this film ended his long-time marriage to the breathtakingly beautiful Olatz. The film will garner a lot of publicity and there will be groups of pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel protesters outside the theater, but it will go down in flames like most of his other films. Basquiat remains a classic because there was a great deal of love and respect poured into it. It shows in every frame. I greatly admire Schnabel on many levels. I just don't understand his choice of film material. I lived with the Palestinians in 1970 and also lived in Cuba during the period of time his film on the gay Cuban author was based. His greatest film is yet to be made. He's getting there.

Ronnie D.
Ronnie D.

Lol, just because it is a true story, does not make it good. The film was poorly made, with bad dialogue and bad acting, so calm down with your pro-palestinian jibble jabble. If you want to see an actually amazing film dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, watch "Ajami"..now that's a filmmaker's film. This film was garbage; simple as that.

MastreMayhem
MastreMayhem

I believe it was Egyptians and Saudis that did the fine work on 911, not Palestinians, but that's nit picking, isn't it? This was not a great movie, true, but your idea for "Lethal Weapon on the Jordan" might be a good Bruckheimer production. Send it in...

Anonymous
Anonymous

Let's see a movie that exposes the kike domination of American media.

Fuck you, stupid zionazi fuck. Nuke Israel!

 

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