On the Whys and Wherefores of Sexual Experimentation

Filmmaker Michal Bat-Adam has reimagined her first film, about a young women indulging in homosexual and group sex in search of herself, for the Tel Aviv stage.

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When it was released in 1979, Michal Bat-Adam's first film caused a sensation. "Moments de la vie d'une femme” focuses on a young woman's attempts to find – or maybe lose – herself in a relationship with another woman who has already settled down with a husband and child.

The Israel Film Council’s censorship board was scandalized by the idea of two women and one man (Bat-Adam, the French actress Brigitte Catillon and Assi Dayan) baring everything on screen in an Israeli theater. It didn't much matter that the scene in question was filmed tastefully and beautifully or that at the end of the movie, the heroine sobers up, stops having lesbian urges and holding threesomes and goes back to being a respectable heterosexual.

Since then, the screens and stages of this country have seen far more provocative, daring, and ugly displays. The world hasn’t yet come to an end as the result of bedroom activity being shown publicly (or for any other reason, for that matter).

Bat-Adam is now revisiting her story; not on the screen but on the stage and not as an actress but as a director and tutor of the four young actors involved in the play. At a time when threesomes and lesbian sex seem almost innocent, the real focus is that age-old human dilemma of the “road less travelled,” as the American poet Robert Frost put it.

With all due respect (and it is due) to the men in the play, they really just serve to advance the plot. One of the men is a security guard in the Jerusalem hotel the two young women find themselves in. Elad Samama plays the archetypal sure-of-himself, spontaneous Israeli – perfect, as one of the women notes, for maximal use over the course of one night. (It doesn't hurt that he quotes Shakespeare.) Guy Zach plays Yair, the man who is swept into his wife’s bed as well as her feminine fantasies. He doesn’t mind too much but is left with questions about what happened – which may be man’s fate.

But the play centers on the two women: the light Hadar Barbash, a simple, innocent beauty (in the original story she was a foreigner), and the dark Alma Dishi, who is older and more hesitant. Dishi is also the one left with a mature and realistic lesson: We have dreams we wish to fulfill, and when we experience them, even if just for a moment, we can get by in our day-to-day lives, even if we sometimes find ourselves thinking: yes, but …

The play benefits from its delicate construction, the gorgeous soundtrack by Daniel Mizrahi and the charm created by the artificiality of theater. There are also some lovely stretches of dialogue, particularly those about who's dreaming of whom and when. Ultimately, it's a touching play, even if it leaves the viewer with a sense of: yes, but …

"Moments de la vie d'une femme," written and directed by Michal Bat-Adam. Tmuna Theater, Tel Aviv. Original music by Daniel Mizrahi. Lighting design by Amir Castro.

A scene from the 1979 film.

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