Gay film slipped palatably out of Israels closet with the films of Eytan Fox, who, with his partner Gal Uchovsky, made Yossi & Jagger, The Bubble, and the subliminally homoerotic Walk on Water. But writer-director Yair Hochner takes it to a daring new level that both invites and challenges the mainstream audience. Like The Bubble, Antarctica takes urban loneliness as its subject, but though all the characters are strikingly attractive, theres nothing frothy or pandering about Hochners hermetic homosexual worldmothers and siblings includedwhere uncompromising carnality and an endless supply of ringtones define the shifting couplings of gay men and lesbians ineptly looking for love and family in Tel Aviv, Israels answer to New York. The script, by turns crisply iconoclastic, wistfully romantic, and sublimely silly (an alien landing is thrown in for the fun of it), supports Hochners fluid juggling of tone. In what passes for escapism in Israeli film, Antarctica is resolutely apolitical, but there is a subversive politicking in its insistence on portraying gay life as is, promiscuity and all. Which may be why the only Israeli theater that would show this lovingly goofy tribute to John Waters is a cinematheque.
Jan. 2-8, 2009