In Mira Recanati's subtle, complex "A Thousand Little Kisses" (at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex through Tuesday, the Grande next Wednesday to Dec. 17), a Tel Aviv schoolteacher (Dina Doronne) asks her grade-school students if they know when it is possible to forgive without understanding. There are no replies, so Doronne answers herself: "When there is love."
Yet this teacher is constitutionally unable to practice what she preaches, although at this moment she seems to be making an effort to do so. She has returned to the classroom after several months' absence, recovering from the death of her husband and the discovery that he'd had a mistress (Rina Ochitel) for many years and had been virtually a father to the other woman's grown son (Gad Roll). To complicate matters, her darkly beautiful daughter (Rivka Neuman), home from New York to be with her mother, finds that she and Roll are attracted to each other.
Recanati has said that the relationship between this mother and daughter "can be seen as a cultural piece, since the family is a microcosm of the country. Everything is so small and tightly knit in Tel Aviv, families are so dependent upon each other that there is an emotional blackmail which doesn't change from generation to generation." But what Recanati reveals about Doronne and Neuman can apply to mothers and daughters everywhere.
The irony of this self-destructive, possessive middle-aged mother is that she has an unusually fine opportunity to create a new life for herself. She is a handsome, sensual woman with an attractive, unattached suitor (Doron Tavori); she has a good job where she is well appreciated, and a wonderful, airy apartment in the quaint old Arab quarter of Jaffe. Yet for all her intelligence, she is consumed with her husband's betrayal, which she sees her daughter as compounding with her interest in his other family--Roll, a sullen Mick Jagger look-alike, and his mother Ochitel, a pretty, plump hairdresser, warm and easygoing. Her hard-line attitude, of course, serves only to drive her daughter further into what she views as the enemy camp.
In this intimate, deeply feminine (not feminist) film, Recanati displays the understanding that the mother lacks without asking us to like either mother or daughter, something that's sometimes difficult to do. We're able to understand not only why the mother feels the way she does about her daughter and herself (at base, her feelings are a reflection of an often oppressive emotional dependency within her culture) but also how the daughter's attraction to Roll is part of her struggle to discover her identity (perhaps also a reflection of emotional incestuousness in that same culture). Instead of judging either mother or daughter, both of whom could be accused of selfishness, Recanati brings a tragic perspective to their plight.
"A Thousand Little Kisses," shown at the '82 Filmex, marks an assured feature debut for Recanati, who seemed headed for a career on the concert stage after 10 years of piano study and is an acclaimed sculptor as well. There's a casual, offhand elegance to the film that is matched by its moody score (incorporating excerpts from Benjamin Britten's "Illuminations"). "A Thousand Little Kisses" (Times-rated: Mature for adult themes and situations) has much the quality of an early French New Wave film, yet its performances have an intensity reminiscent of Cocteau's similarly themed "Les Parents Terribles."
'A THOUSAND LITTLE KISSES'
A Cinecom International release of an Israfilm presentation. Producers Zvi Spielmann, Shlomo Mograbi. Writer-director Mira Recanati. Camera David Gurfinkel. Music Schlomo Gronich. Film editor Jacquot Ehrlich. With Dina Doronne, Rivka Neuman, Gad Roll, Rina Ochitel, Doron Tavori, Nissim Zohar, Nirit Gronich, Daphna Recanati. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.