O Jerusalem


Retooling Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s sprawling 1972 docu-novel about the birth of Israel around a sorely tested friendship between a Jew (J.J. Feild) and an Arab (Saïd Taghmaoui), this adorably clumsy melodrama has going for it a conciliatory spirit intended to warm the liberal heart. That’s also a weakness, with director Elie Chouraqui and co-writer Didier Lepecheur falling prey to a fatal even-handedness that reduces a complex battle for the loveliest, most fought-over city in the world to a pile of heroic clichés. Though no one actually breaks into song, the cheesy battle scenes and even cheesier romantic backstory will have you waiting in vain for a musical. Politics pops its head in here and there, but it’s hard to stay focused when Ian Holm, as Ben Gurion, keeps rushing around in electrocuted hair extensions, declaiming history. Imagine watching Otto Preminger’s equally silly 1960 Exodus now and you’ll have O Jerusalem, minus Paul Newman’s blue-eyed wink.