Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Matchmaker (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

The Matchmaker

"The Matchmaker" is a coming of age valentine reminiscent of the work of Neil Simon, most notably "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Biloxi Blues"albeit here in a Haifa, Israel setting. Although told  with an old-fashioned gumshoe tread--- almost like the cinema of the 1960s  filtered through the 1980s---the film possesses a solid breezy charm that is like a wink from a distant and faraway friend. 

The film concerns a naive young boy Arik (Tuval Shafir) who is obsessed with Dashiell Hammett. Shafir strikingly recalls  young  Thelonious Bernard from "A Little Romance" (1979) or a hesitant and peeping Matthew Broderick from his early films. 

Arik falls in with an odd and philosophic character, one Mr. Bride. (Adir Miller) Bride is a "matchmaker" of sorts, a  rather mysterious person with a large jarring scar across his face that makes him seem like an inverse clown. We are never sure if Mr. Bride is on the level or if he is quite wholesome and it doesn't seem to matter. Bride is not a great matchmaker, but this makes for much of the film's humor.

 Despite Mr. Bride's great girth he seems to hover though space like a lugubrious cloud, full of rain and wistful hope. Adir Miller is most compelling  here creating a first impression of Orson Welles in "A Touch of Evil". Bride is made gentle, however through his liking for Arik.

Romance enters in the form of Tamara (Neta Porat) a young ingenue full of the psychedelic sixties. Tamara is as uninhibited as Arik is shy, although Tamara never seems full of any real disregard of the 1950s status quo. At times she seems a bit diluted, a mere prankster. At her best, Porat is a benign narcotic, a Disneyesque Lolita, who makes her mischief charming. There is no toxicity here, nor should there be. Porat has real chemistry with Shafir. Together they create a sort of prepubescent version of "The Graduate" and their scenes pull the film into an interesting hybrid of suspense, apprehension and sweet romance. 

Given the film's tinted and shadowy fade outs between many scenes that recall "Chinatown" and "Blue Velvet", (in style only) I half expected something a bit more punchy. The darkness of Mr. Bride is let go and the entrancing poison of Tamara is ameliorated into sentiment. Perhaps the most daring character in the film is Clara (Maya Dagan). Clara as  Mr. Bride's accomplice is a cypher to the end and her last move is one of betrayal. Dagan's role echoes the fragility of Gena Rowlands and freezes it into the icy callousness  of a Barbara Stanwyck. Clara is all the toxin that Tamara is not.

Despite a predictable ending that feels  mimicked from other films, "The Matchmaker" is an enjoyable picaresque journey of stolen books and kisses, full of sepia shaded strangers who always manage a smirk in the end.

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