1/09/2005

Yossi and Jagger

I just finished this low-budget Israeli flick called Yossi and Jagger. I can’t complain about the cast. If only it were a porno. I love this Semitic type, so long as they’re under thirty and don’t have sidelocks. Jagger bites it in the end, too, but in this instance that’s what the whole plot is for. I can’t say that I cared all that much, which is a shame, but the relationship between the two title characters was not very fleshed out. There was a lot of gratuitous shit going on around them that frankly detracted from the development of the characters the title suggested the story was supposed to be about.

There was not a lot of tension in the script over the issue of the homophobia in the Israeli military, which was another thing you were led to believe the story was about. What tension there was was in a silly subplot involving a young girl with a crush on sexy young Jagger, and another soldier who had a crush on her.

You know that Jagger is going to get it when they go out ‘on ambush,’ whatever that is—the whole plot is basically about setting up the scene where he will be blown to bits by a landmine. But there’s no tension in it. We know it will happen but we don’t feel a sense of horror at the inevitability of it, we don’t feel any dread. I mean, Jagger is conspicuous by his absence in much of the film. When we do see him he’s vamping it up, or pouting, and frankly, though he’s pretty, he’s not very sympathetic. Yahuda Levi, despite the very unlovely name, is lovely to look at (he’s a soap star in Israel—and despite being compared to DeNiro, he has soap star looks), but his Jagger is a run-of-the-mill disco slut.

I didn’t get any sense that what was going on between him and the very earnest and manly Yossi (played by the much, much uglier and infinitely sexier Ohad Knoller) was a big, big love. Yossi is much more reluctant to declare his love, but that’s obviously because it’s much more serious for him. Jagger is always nagging him to tell him he loves him.

But if you translated all this into real life (and it is based on a true story), and say Jagger hadn’t got himself blown to bits, Yossi’s suffering would have been greater in the long run, and not so ennobling. They’d have left the army, moved together to Tel Aviv, and Jagger would be giving it up to every hung top he could find. He’d be throwing it in Yossi’s face. Yossi would get depressed, and start eating, and get fat, which would only encourage Jagger. Jagger would get addicted to crystal meth, and eventually contract AIDS. In a rare moment of generosity he would give it to Yossi. It would’ve been more like the last third of Before Night Falls. So it worked out better, storywise, that he died in the end.

Apparently Yossi and Jagger was a big smash hit in Israel. And although the cast was very capable, the movie was certainly not all that. It makes you wonder what it is about the film that aroused such interest, mainly among young moviegoers, if what I’ve read about it is true. Why should this tale have particular resonance with a wider audience? I mean, what is homosexuality as portrayed here shorthand for? For truths that can’t be spoken? And what truths would those be? The story of Yossi and Jagger is not compelling enough on its own to merit a movie. And certainly not compellingly enough told to merit the adulation it has received at home. So the question is, what is their story symbolic of? But honestly, I can’t be bothered to go looking for an answer.

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