"Double Edge" (selected theaters) is a terrible movie but fascinating as a case study in star behavior. A well-intentioned but hopelessly contrived Israeli picture dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it casts Faye Dunaway as a reporter from a fictional New York newspaper sent to Jerusalem to stand in for its regular correspondent for three weeks only.
Never mind that it's unlikely that a key publication would send someone to such a hot spot who's not only not an expert on the Mideast but also amazingly naive; undaunted, Dunaway goes right ahead and plays the reporter with absolute, unshakable conviction, concentration and authority. We, in turn, are able to believe in her as her reporter's initial pro-Palestinian bias gives way to a more complex and tragic view of the terrible dilemma that has Israel in its grip. Always a stylish actress, Dunaway is properly intense, headstrong, gutsy, good-humored and altogether riveting. The film may be falling apart all around her, but Dunaway never flinches.
It's hard to believe that her writer-director--and co-star--Amos Kollek, had much to do with her impassioned star turn, since everything else about the film works only fitfully at best. (You have to wonder whether Dunaway had seen his two previous pictures, the dreadful comedies "Goodbye New York" and "Forever Lulu"). Casting himself as an acerbic intellectual, Kollek has zero screen presence and precious little directing or writing ability.
To his credit, he tries to present both sides of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and in doing so, has Dunaway interview actual personages, among them Kollek's own real-life father, Teddy Kollek, the longtime mayor of Jerusalem, who makes a plea for peaceful coexistence. Others include Abba Eban, the former foreign minister of Israel, the late right-wing leader Meir Kahane and Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinians' eloquent spokeswoman. All of what they have to say is worth listening to, but we should be hearing it in a documentary, not a fiction film. Their authentic, unrehearsed appearances have the disastrous, unfair effect of making Dunaway seem artificial. Even so, her presence gives "Double Edge" (rated PG-13 for a scene of violence) whatever edge it has.
Faye Dunaway: Faye Milano
Amos Kollek: David
Mohammad Bakri: Mustafa Shafik
Makram Khouri: Ahmed Shafik
A Castle Hill release. Writer-director Amos Kollek. Producers Kollek, Rafi Reibenbach. Executive producer Michael Steinhardt. Cinematographer Amnon Salomon. Editors David Tour, Vicki Hiatt. Costumes Rakefet Levy. Music Mira J. Spektor. Set designer Zvika Aloni. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
MPAA-rated PG-13 (for a scene of violence).