The Westview, one of Baltimore's earliest multiplexes, has recently begun an adventurous art film policy; so ambitious is the theater's management to crack the upscale market that at one point it had "Europa, Europa," "Mediterraneo," "Night on Earth" and "Where Angels Fear to Tred" playing simultaneously. That's a film festival in a bucket!
But "For Sasha," the new film at the Westview, isn't an art film. It isn't even close to an art film. In fact, it's an anti-art film.
In the original French, its title is "Pour Sasha," but I would call it "Poor Sasha," because poor Sasha is in a turgid, overwhelming and pulpy French romantic melodrama set against a somewhat mythologized version of the Six-Day War. It's derived, moreover, entirely from long-defunct Hollywood formulas; it even has violins at the mushy parts.
In brief, it follows the twisted gyre of three boys, a girl, a man and a kibbutz. The three boys are French students, the girl is their dream of perfection and ardent romantic object of worship, and the man is their teacher, who becomes, successively, the girl's lover, then an Israeli paratrooper and farmer and finally her fiance. The kibbutz looks like the Tel Aviv Club Med.
The main action is set on the cusp of the war in June of 1967; the three lads have come to the kibbutz to celebrate Laura's 20th birthday, unaware, being perfect idiots, that conflict looms. It's a bittersweet meeting because all long for her and she longs for them but only as "just friends"; she is committed to Sasha. But one look at Sasha (Richard Berry) with those haunted poet eyes, and that slouchy, doomed sexiness and you know: This boy is toast.
The movie flits around the sexual politics of this smart set for most of its very long running length, exploring little betrayals and delusions endemic among the immature and hormonal, before settling down to a noble-soldier-does-his-duty theme straight off the Culver City assembly line in 1943. The dialogue is so ripe you're afraid it'll attract flies.
As a travelogue of Israel it is first-class; as a patriotic work-up the sacrifice and commitment to duty that underlay Israeli success in the Six-Day War, it's admirable. But as a movie, it feels 12 days long.
'For Sasha' Starring Sophie Marceau and Richard Berry.
Directed by Alexandre Arcady.
Released by MKII.