Director: Marco Carmel
Mayane Films, United Channel Movies, United King Film Distribution
Hebrew, English, French with English Subtitles
When sophisticated Parisian-Jewish lawyer Louise, played by Joséphine Draï (Belle Belle Belle, Man Up!) is asked by her father to take a temporary respite from planning her extravagant wedding and fly to Jerusalem to close on a multi-million euro deal, little could she have imagined the dramas that would ensue on her three-day trip.
This zany romantic comedy admirably illustrates how Israeli cinema and Jewish culture is so much wider and richer than the sturm und drang in which it is so often portrayed. That the film has already garnered six nominations for Ophir Awards (aka the Israeli Oscars) is a testament to director Marco Carmel (Noble Savage, Almost Famous). Unlike so many films of the genre—with clichéd plots and predictable endings—Paris Boutique is a very unique offering.
“It’s very hard to pull off romantic comedy—something that’s charming, with great characters who form an incredibly unlikely friendship,” says Yael Luttwak, the artistic director of JxJ, which brings together the DC Jewish Film and Music Festivals and who chose Paris Boutique for the JxJ closing night screening on May 21. “Comedy is always harder to pull off than drama, and this all could have fallen flat, but it doesn’t. It’s also really good fun.”
Beautifully attired and immaculately coiffed, Louise arrives at Ben-Gurion airport pushing a luggage trolley piled high with her Louis Vuitton bags. There she’s met by feisty, scruffily dressed cab driver Neta Cohen, played by Nelly Tagar (Zero Motivation, The Art of Waiting, Past Life), who she instructs, somewhat imperiously, to take her to the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem. But Neta has other plans. Recently deserted by her husband and now deep in debt, with her apartment in Mahane Yehuda (“The Shuk” market in Jerusalem) about to be repossessed, Neta’s life is rapidly falling apart. When her friend and neighbor Yaffa, played by Batel Moseri (Bracha, Committed, Doubtful) calls her at the airport to tell her the repo men have arrived to empty out her apartment, Neta responds that her passenger “looks filthy rich!” and quickly hatches a devious plan to take advantage of the posh French tourist, reckoning that she might be able to scam Louise just enough to pay off her bills.
Encountering a police stop on the road to Jerusalem, fast-talking Neta turns it to her advantage by telling Louise that a suicide bomb has exploded, all roads are closed and she must therefore take her to her apartment until diverted traffic is permitted to proceed.
But, of course, in movies even the best laid plans often go awry—and this one does in double-quick time. Shot in some of the most iconic sites of Jerusalem, such as the winding alleyways of the Old City and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the plot quickens apace when Neta takes Louise to visit the Western Wall. Neta hangs back as Louise heads towards the women’s section and asks if Neta wants to accompany her. Neta shrugs and retorts sardonically: “How many times have you been to the Eiffel Tower?”
Devastatingly handsome Daniel, played by Angel Bonanni (7 Days in Entebbe, in which he played Yoni Netanyahu) is on the men’s side, right up against the dividing barrier. Briefly Daniel and Louise look into one another’s eyes, and a frisson of attraction is sparked between the two. Mysteriously, Daniel seems to be conducting a clandestine relationship with another woman, communicating surreptitiously with her via notes placed in the cracks of the Wall. So, who exactly is the enigmatic Daniel and what is his connection to the woman leaving him messages? For Neta, this is a conundrum that needs to be solved and it doesn’t take her long to entice Louise into the madcap venture to find out. But what about Louise’s fiancé, Philippe, back home in Paris?
Poised and prosperous Louise comes from the opposite end of the social spectrum to that inhabited by Neta and Yaffa. In an emotional confrontation at one point, Neta explodes in frustration with Louise and delivers one of her many acerbic one-liners: “not everyone was born with a golden fork in his mouth!” Briefly nonplussed, Louise corrects her with, “Oh, you mean a silver spoon!”
Avi, played by Moris Cohen (Silent, Our Father), is a butcher who secretly adores Neta, forever bailing her out of sticky situations but failing to reveal his true feelings to her. Yaffa, in an unstable liaison with a fickle married man, has her own dreams of finding true love. In this comedy of errors and misunderstandings, who will find their soulmate?
The property deal Louise was sent to Israel to sign off on proves to be far more complicated than expected, and she finds that a rabbi, an imam and a priest are all attempting to outbid one another. Father Santiago explains his reason for desperately wanting possession as: “Theologists, they believe that Saint Joseph and the Holy Mary stayed here for a few days while they were hiding from the Romans.” Unexpectedly the issue of peace in the Middle East enters the equation—maybe Louise can play a small part in resolving that thorny, long-standing, conflict?
Over the few short days during which the three women are thrown together, they grow closer as they overcome one scrape after another. The differences in social standing and wealth between Louise and her new friends quickly collapse. And what began as a nightmare journey, which Louise never wanted in the first place, turns into an astonishing learning curve for all of them as well as a madcap adventure of discovery. Unexpected relationships of friendship and mutual respect are kindled, a mystery is solved, love is found where least expected and an ingenious property deal is sealed.
Check your local JCC film festival schedule and movie theaters for viewing dates and times.
Due to the requirements of filmmakers and distributors, the virtual viewing of some movies is limited to certain geographical areas. Restrictions vary but it is worth checking each title on the internet. Most virtual films are only available for a few days.