"Late Summer Blues," which today launches a series of six Israeli features at the Monica 4-Plex, is a lyrical, bittersweet depiction of a special period for a group of Tel Aviv students just ending their final year of high school.
The feelings of uncertainty and dislocation most of us experience at this juncture in our lives is heightened for these seniors, for it is the summer of 1970, when young men were dying at the rate of 15 a week in the War of Attrition. Writer-director Renen Schorr, in a powerful feature debut, and scenarist Doron Nesher, drawing from personal experience, do not send messages but instead evoke the tragic senselessness of war. "Late Summer Blues" is more personal than political.
Schorr divides his film into three parts plus an epilogue devoted to Margo (Shahar Segal), who is clearly the film maker's alter ego, a dark, curly-haired kid forever filming his friends with his 8-millimeter camera and saved by diabetes from military service. The first to be drafted of Margo's three closest pals are Yossi (Omri Dolev), a cheerful John Rubinstein look-alike, eager to become a paratrooper. Skinny, craggy-faced Arileh (Dor Zweigenbom), who wonders jokingly whether he or Golda Meier has the longer nose, is an embittered protester, spray-can painting "There are no just wars" everywhere he can. Mossi (Yoav Tsafir) is the musician of the group, and it is he who leads his friends in reworking the class show into a protest against the war. On the personal front, both Mossi and Arileh are captivated by the beautiful Naomi (Noa Goldberg), a talented singer auditioning for a chance to entertain the troops.
"Late Summer Blues" captures to perfection the sense of indolence, frustration and dread that sweeps over these people who have only each other, their songs (and, on occasion, their hashish) to ease their numbing sense of fatalism. They are ingratiating, intelligent young people who question and challenge the Establishment. (The young men also worry whether they'll succeed in losing their virginity before they get killed.)
Part of the film unfolds as Margo's gritty, hand-held Super 8 footage. We're used to thinking of film as conferring immortality, especially in regard to beloved movie stars. But in "Late Summer Blues" (Times-rated Mature), it's Margo's home movies that give the film its sharp jabs of mortality. (Note: The film moves over to the Town & Country on Oct. 28.)