Film: Footnote (2011)
Cast includes: Lior Ashkenazi (Walk on Water), Shlomo Bar-Abe (Witness in the War Zone)
Writer/Director: Joseph Cedar (Beaufort)
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Satire (103 minutes) Hebrew with subtitles
It's the "most difficult day in Professor Eliezer Shkolnik's life." Today his son, Professor Uriel Shkolnik, is being inducted into Israel's National Academy. It's obviously a family of academic over-achievers, who inhabit a world of scholars, measuring their self-worth by the academic organizations they've been invited to join, the prizes they've won and the scholarly works they've published. So why is it such a difficult day for Eliezer Shkolnik? Well, "there are a few things worth knowing about Shkolnik (father)." On the brink of publishing the findings of 30 years worth of Talmudic research, his efforts were undermined and rendered worthless by that scoundrel, Grossman. Today, all Shkolnik (father) can boast is an obscure footnote citing him in someone else's research paper. And Shkolnik (father) is loath to ride the coattails of Shkolnik (son).
On the "happiest day in Professor Eliezer Shkolnik's life" he receives a phone call from the Education Commission, telling him that he will be receiving the coveted Israel Prize. It's long overdue. After all, he's been passed over for 20 years. But when Uriel Shkolnik gets called to meet with the board members of the Education Commission, he learns they "have good news and bad news." The phone call was a mistake -- the wrong Shkolnik. And the committee, headed by the aforementioned Grossman, is leaving it up to Uriel Shkolnik to tell Eliezer Shkolnik he isn't getting the prize after all. In the meantime, Eliezer Shkolnik is basking in the glory with his usual chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. He publicly badmouths the research of the new generation -- scholars such as his son, the true winner of the prize!
This tricky, clever spoof on family/community life in academia starts out with some great stylistic elements inspired by mid-20th century mystery movies. We're instantly drawn in by the music, the graphics and the quick rollout of plot elements. Steeped in academic competition and esoteric research, character motivations can seem a bit twisted to the rest of us. But the filmmakers show us how egos wrapped in the guise of academic achievement can lead to some bizarre rivalries. Once the dilemma of the Israel Prize mistake is revealed, however, the film becomes a bit mired in esoteric details. The fast, subtitled dialogue can be a bit challenging because some of the minutia that flies by is rather important. But it's still clever and funny. See it with a friend. When you finish watching it, you'll probably want to compare notes on what you believe happened at the end -- a little scholarly exercise of our own!
2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
An irreverent satire about father/son rivalry, cleverly wrapped in academic esoterica
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking
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