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20/20 Filmsight - Film Criticism by David O'Connell

 
Film Criticism by David O'Connell

THE SLUT @ The Israeli Film Festival

August 26th 2011 05:46
by David O’Connell





A provocative title. And provocative subject matter too. Ah, but what a waste…………..not of a good idea, but of celluloid. I’m staggered at the sheer pointlessness of some films. I say this mostly in reference to American films in which screenplays are elusive items to be conjured up after a special effects pitch. But now an Israeli filmmaker has matched the deeds of Michael Winterbottom, an otherwise fascinating filmmaker, who in 2004 made his most useless contribution to cinema with the awful 9 Songs.

Hagar Ben-Asher’s The Slut, a film in which the director performs triple duty as writer and lead actor, centres on a dusty, primordial Israeli town with few inhabitants. The men gravitate towards two-time single parent Tamar (Ben-Asher) who ‘services’ them all, without any qualms it seems. All this sexual activity seems a part of the ebb and flow of this nothing place.

Then along comes Shai (Ishai Golan), a former member of the community who has returned to clear his deceased mother’s things. Naturally he remembers the alluring Tamar. And just as naturally, like every male member within a certain radius, he falls for Tamar. In double quick time he becomes another of her lovers. But this deluded creature actually imagines a future with a woman who inspires silent, jealous stares if she lingers at a single watering hole too long.

Little of the characters’ motivations are spelt out in dialogue. Words are a rare treasure in this film. Clearly writing is not Ben-Asher’s strength, but then why bother with clarification when you can fill in time with an erect penis or two being stroked for the sake of titillation? We’re highly desensitised to this sort of thing these days of course; explicit sex acts have become almost de rigueur in foreign cinema of a certain sort. There’s now little room left to move for filmmakers looking to truly shock audiences. The attempts continue later on as Tamar and Shai’s lovemaking enters a shady region in which you have to wonder at whether it's merely simulation.







The Slut might be considered a slow burn drama, but the fire we’re anticipating is never lit. Instead it draws towards a baffling, irritating conclusion in which the notion of revenge gets twisted on its head through a couple of risible permutations - one of which involves the corruption of a child.

What are we expected to make of all this? That a leopard can’t change its spots? That amorality is like a plague that can’t be cured? And can a man who falls in love with a ‘loose’ woman reasonably expect her to save herself for him alone, thus spurning both her overpowering carnal desire and need to sate all and sundry?

You’ll want to cry at the simultaneously pointless and twisted manner in which Ben-Asher’s toxic film floats towards its resolution. The aberrant psychological implications are hard to shake. Superfluous and transparent, The Slut (2011) is devoid of subtext or creative design. It simply exists for the world to consume.



I say: A meandering, dreary tale spiked with explicit sex acts to give it more life than it deserves.

See it for: No reason I can think of, unless you've been barred access to certain items of your most prized collection by your morally outraged, overbearing mother.



The Slut screens as part of the 2011 Israeli Film Festival which has just begun in Sydney before heading to Melbourne from August 30. Full details can be found HERE.



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8 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Bryn

August 26th 2011 06:19
Actual sexual activity, or just simulation?

Comment by BOOB

August 27th 2011 16:34
I'm with you on this one.

Comment by Anonymous

August 28th 2011 08:35
charming....

nicely harpooned as always Dave.

It does make me ponder, after reading your review, that maybe this film unintentionally displays a litmus test to the society in current day Israel?

I have family from there, so I also have an inside view of it and, frankly, it does not surprise me that a sociopathic like attitude permeates their artistic endeavours; both those who wish to open a mental dialogue opposing what is going on there, and those whom wish to continue to enforce the devastating consequences of a society enduring systemic apartheid and the prejudices put in place to support it.

cheers

fog


Comment by Mountain Fog

August 28th 2011 08:37
damn...sorry...I thought I was logged in...I will click a star instead to make up for my accidental measely one point vote...

cheers,

fog

Comment by Bryn

August 28th 2011 08:39
How explicit exactly?

Comment by David O'Connell

August 30th 2011 04:16
Glad to hear it Boob. Not sure I'll be getting much support in my dislike for a film called The Slut, but there you go.

Interesting to hear your take fog, I'm not well-informed enough to know what to read into this. On face value, the film is incredibly tedious and pointless.

Bryn, it's very explicit in a couple of scenes. (Then again, what's 'very' by today's standards?)

Comment by Bryn

August 30th 2011 23:36
Well, yes ... Does it have Actual Sexual Activity like Short Cuts and 9 Songs, or does it have Tinto Brass style hard-soft core ...?

Comment by Anonymous

December 30th 2011 04:07
even say the name of the film that one is going to see then one may well have trouble dealing with its subject matter.

I gasped out loud from my front row centre seat at THAT shocking moment right at the beginning of the film (you'll know it when you see it, I shan't spoil it for anyone else). Everybody else in the cinema remained stone silent. So I guess we are sensitive about some things (like a four-lettered word) but not other things that SHOULD make us jump in fright.

David, I think it is what you pointed out in the fifth paragraph regarding one of Tamar's daughters that the audience probably objected to the most. It makes audiences feel uncomfortable and perhaps for some strikes a little too close to home.

The film is extremely slow but it only runs for 87 minutes and has plenty to sustain itself so I don't see how this is a problem. Hagar Ben-Asher is quite good at foreshadowing with extremely subtle hints at what may or will come later, and maybe not everyone picked up on them, but I did, and after a while, to me, it became not a question of WHAT the conclusion to the film would be but HOW it would get there.

Numerous people have complained about how the erotic scenes seem unerotic and there is no real emotional attachment between Tamar and her various suitors. I think certainly the latter and perhaps even the former is quite intentional (your mileage may vary as to what is erotic and what is not). Such a pity that supposedly insighful reviewers fail to understand this.

One of the more challenging and daring films of the past few years and I really do believe that this is one movie that audiences deserve to see for themselves.

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