François Truffaut is often quoted as saying that there’s no such thing as an anti-war film because cinema inherently makes combat look exciting. That’s debatable (and very masculine), but certainly no movies in recent memory have managed to make Israel’s compulsory military service look like anything but the worst. Samuel Moaz’s brutal, three-act Foxtrot even manages to be a darker military comedy than Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation, and that’s saying a lot. In the first act, Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and Dafna (Sarah Adler) are parents who learn their soldier son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray) has been killed.
In act two, the focus on Michael’s spiral into grief, paranoia, and anger shifts to Jonathan’s unit at a checkpoint in the middle of nowhere, a place of stultifying boredom where a camel is as likely to go by as a human, and tragedy can strike out of nowhere. Act three returns to Michael and Dafna dealing with Jonathan’s death, but in a considerably different manner than before, one that lays bare Michael’s deep-seated guilt. The movie is a brutal emotional trip heightened by striking camerawork; Foxtrot’s been compared to Fellini, but Moaz’s eye for composition is more than a little Kubrickian as well. The film’s title is eventually explained, but an alternate could easily have been Chekhov’s Camel. You’ll see why.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.