The Matchmaker

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The Matchmaker
Written and directed by Avi Nesher
Menemsha Films
Opens August 17, Quad Cinema

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An old-fashioned Mediterranean coming-of-age story set in the young heart of the Levant, The Matchmaker combines the tender tone of a film like Cinema Paradiso with a clear-eyed, street-level vantage on Israel’s summer of the Six-Day War. That would be 1968, where we wind up after a brief introduction to the adult Arik (Eyal Shehter), a novelist, as he is named the sole heir to a recently deceased, long-ago acquaintance named Yankele Bride (Adir Miller) during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. Back in ’68, Arik (played as a teenager by Tuval Shafir) was just discovering his talent for fabulist storytelling when he met Yankele, a self-styled matchmaker still evading the ghosts of his Holocaust encampment. Nosy and interested enough in Yankele’s intricate character work to make a good apprentice, Arik spends his summer shadowing potential suitors and writing about his exploits with a group that includes Yankele’s glamorously damaged business partner (a radiant Maya Dagan) and a nubile Iraqi-American emissary from the sexual revolution (Neta Porat). Writer-director Avi Nesher (working from a novel by Amir Gutfreund) balances his Our Town array of characters and loaded subtexts with a gentle but propulsive pace, careful to cut elegy with the cold knife of history. Michelle Orange

 
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