Film Commentary [4-11-00]
Love under the Skuds - - Yana’s Friends
Grade = A-
Israeli - Hebrew and Russian with English and Hebrew subtitles

Set during the Gulf War in 1991, Yana (Evelyn Kaplun-the director’s wife) and her husband have just emigrated from Russia to Israel and moved into a room in an apartment shared with a Eli (Nir Levi) a native Israeli video photographer. She is immediately abandoned by her husband who absconds back to Russia with money they both signed for from an Israeli bank.

Moving in across the hall is a young Russian couple with the wife’s wheelchair-bound and completely paralyzed grandfather (Mosko Akalai), a veteran of WWII. While moving in, they left grandfather outside in his wheelchair with his hat on his lap and dressed in his old uniform with his medals. They discover that people walking by thought he was a beggar and have deposited an ungodly amount of cash in his hat. This gives the couple an opportunity to make some real money. Everyday they park him on the sidewalk by a music school with his medals and hat. They are soon raking it in.

Unfortunately, the spot they place him is the chosen spot for a Russian immigrant music teacher who earns his living playing the accordion there. Grandfather is completely cutting into his business and leaving him penniless. When he moves, they move grandfather right next to him. He is soon enraged at them all, eventually grabbing grandfather and leaving him on a pier. They cunningly respond by chaining grandfather to the spot.

Meanwhile, Yana cannot leave the country without a clear debt document from the bank they borrowed from. She is stuck, unemployed and broke, but begins to develop a friendship with Eli. As the Gulf War breaks out, they are forced to don gas masks to protect against Skud missile attacks.

Written and directed by Arik Kaplun, this is at times a hysterically funny movie, especially the scenes between the accordion player and grandfather. These three tales are fairly well intertwined to establish excellent character interaction. The script is witty with original scenarios. For example, in a farcical episode, Lana and Eli finally get together and start making love during an air raid warning with gas masks on.

This is a throughly enjoyable comedy that was Israel's entry for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

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