In the strange and unsatisfying Israeli import “Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club” we’re plunked down, context-free, into a secret society of women who lure attractive men into their “reading group” only to kill them and grind them (off-screen) into hot dogs. Talk about subtle.
The film, directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker, from a script he wrote with editor-cinematographer Yossi Meiri, evokes such superior macabre comedies as “Death Becomes Her,” “Eating Raoul” and several Tim Burton entries. But despite its distinctive look and worthy antisexism aims, “Madam” proves too elliptical, remote and, er, undercooked to sufficiently engage.
Longtime Literature Club member Sophie (Keren Mor), a middle-aged sad sack conflicted about the group’s deep-seated hatred of men and love stinks dogma, is one victim away from reaching the group’s peak “Lordess” status. But when the handsome, younger Yoseph (Yiftach Klein) shows up in the library where she works with rival Lola (Ania Bukstein), Sophie is torn between delivering him to the death castle of Madam Yankelova (Leah Koenig) and perhaps a last chance at love.
It’s a workable fantasy setup that’s undermined by a seemingly deliberate lack of detail about the characters, the Club and the world at large. Midway, the story takes a potentially intriguing turn but becomes more muddled than masterly.
‘Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club’
In Hebrew with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hours, 29 minutes.
Playing: Starts June 21, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino