Israel, 2003, 120 minutes, Colour.
Yael Abecassis, Yuri Klauzner, Hanna Laslo.
Directed by Amos Gitai.
Alila is a picture of an Israeli city, a particular neighbourhood. People live close to one another, going about their ordinary lives, sometimes honest, sometimes dishonest, furtive relationships, broken relationships. Gitai, with a minimalist style, focuses on a small group of characters in the neighbourhood. We get the sense of the neighbourhood, the buildings, the apartments. We also look at the characters in close-up. One of the major difficulties is that most of the characters are not particularly sympathetic. We are watching, observing, rather than identifying with the characters. They include a taxi driver separated from his wife who is in a relationship with another driver, who also seems to be some kind of pimp for the neighbourhood. Their son goes to military service, is assaulted, runs away, is wanted by the military police. Eventually, his father takes him back to the barracks although the father has learnt something more about the son's non-violent approach. Meanwhile, a young woman is in a relationship with an older man. They have passionate meetings. His wife discovers the affair and comes to visit. Meanwhile the young woman, emotionally moody, talks about the affair with her girlfriend. There are also Filipino servants, illegal Chinese workers on a building site.
The film requires a deal of patience, asks of its audience to observe and try to understand the characters and the mundane aspects of their existence as well as the drama of their lives.
1. A picture of urban Israel? A city neighbourhood? The characters, their environment, their interactions?
2. Gitai's style, colour photography, yet saturated and a touch bleak? The interiors and their ordinariness? The streets, the buildings, the building site? The taxis and their passing by shops, clubs? The musical score?
3. The range of characters in Tel Aviv? Audiences interest in them, their characters, their interactions?
4. The young woman, in the apartment, her relationship with the older man? Her passion for him, their lovemaking? Her buying shoes, talking with her friend about the affair? Her wanting to move in? Her moodiness, the wife finding out, the clash with the man?
5. The man himself, going to the taxi driver, wanting to find an apartment for his girlfriend? His furtiveness, the lovemaking, leaving, her shutting the door? His orders to her about keeping silence? Allowing her to move into the flat?
6. The taxi driver, his son and wanting to relate to him, the discussions about military service? The son and his going, not finding it congenial, the attack, his running away, the military guards looking for him? His meeting his mother and father, his explanation of his attitudes? Trying to live by himself? Finally going back - and the father hesitating, having listened to his son?
7. The father, his work, his passengers, his attempts at relationship with his son, his parking outside his ex-wife's house, her wanting him to go? The discussions with them about finding their son, going to meet him? His arranging illegal work for the Chinese workers? An ordinary man trying to make a living?
8. The other taxi driver, living with the ex-wife, their relationship, his arranging apartments for rendezvous? The comparison with the older taxi driver?
9. The people in the neighbourhood, the old man, his having to go to hospital, the joy of his return, getting the locksmith to open and finding he had been burgled? His Filipina maid, her work, devotion to him? The Chinese, illegal migrants, the role of the police, their documents, going to the building site, the man from the relationship and his hiring the Chinese?
10. A rather glacial and objective look at life in Tel Aviv?