Hollywood Press Praises New Israeli Films 'Norman,' 'Past Life'

The Hollywood Reporter calls Joseph Cedar’s ‘Norman’ ‘compellingly unsettling and complex,’ while Variety calls Avi Nesher’s ‘Past Life’ ‘profoundly moving.’

Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
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Lior Ashkenazi and Richard Gere arrive for the premiere of the film 'Norman' at the Toronto International Film Festival, September 12, 2016.
Lior Ashkenazi and Richard Gere arrive for the premiere of the film 'Norman' at the Toronto International Film Festival, September 12, 2016.Credit: Reuters / Fred Thornhill
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

The Hollywood Reporter has tapped Joseph Cedar’s “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” as one of the 10 best films of the fall’s major festivals – Toronto, Venice and Telluride, Colorado.

Variety, meanwhile, had kind words for Avi Nesher’s new movie “Past Life.”

“Norman,” the Israeli director’s first American film, stars Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi and a raft of other American and Israeli actors.

The Reporter calls Gere impressive in the lead role and describes the movie as “compellingly unsettling and complex.” It says “Norman” is “a stylish and intricately detailed portrait of the web of political, financial, social and religious affiliations that has everything to do with how the world works.”

The film, which the U.S.-born Cedar wrote and directed, tells the story of Norman Oppenheimer, a New York macher who befriends young Israeli politician Micha Eshel during a slow period in the Israeli's career. Three years later, when Eshel unexpectedly becomes prime minister, Norman’s life changes dramatically.

Variety was less enthusiastic but not negative. Deadline Hollywood called Gere’s performance his best ever, while ScreenDaily also praised Gere. The Guardian gave the film only three stars out of five, saying Gere, in one of his best performances in recent years, makes up for the film’s shortcomings.

Meanwhile, Avi Nesher’s “Past Life,” which also had its world premiere in Toronto, was called his best film ever by Variety.

The movie tells the story of two ambitious and competitive sisters; Nelly Tagar plays a fiery investigative journalist, while Joy Rieger plays a gifted musician trying to make her way in the male-dominated world of classical music.

In the shadow of Israel’s political upheaval of 1977, when Likud beat Labor in an election for the first time, the two undergo a personal upheaval when family secrets are revealed.

Variety called the film, which is based on a true story, “profoundly moving.” It praised the movie’s sound track and both lead actresses. ScreenDaily was less enthusiastic, calling the work an “absorbing, solidly satisfying, middlebrow drama.”

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