Eurovison fans will find this Israeli comedy to be sheer cinematic joy. Not only is it a hilariously astute satire of the music competition, but it's also packed with deeper political meaning. And the music makes us want to dance. It's also a refreshing shift for filmmaker Eytan Fox, whose previous films like The Bubble and Yossi dealt with much darker themes.
In the latest UniverSong contest, Israel came in dead last. So of course everyone thinks they could do better next year. When a group of friends improvise a song to cheer up their recently single cupcake-baker pal Anat (Anat Waxman), the idea gains traction. Schoolteacher Ofer (Ofer Shechter) leads the charge, but lawyer Yael (Yael Bar Zohar) and politician Dana (Dana Ivgy) feel that such silly competitions will belittle their careers. Blogger Keren (Keren Berger) thinks she has no talent, while musician Efrat (Efrat Dor) thinks he's above this kind of silly pop. But the real challenge for this group is to perform the song their way, because the powers that be want them to fit into the usual mould.
Fox further complicates everything with romantic entanglements for all six characters, each of which adds to the central theme about overcoming fear to do the right thing. For example, Ofer's boyfriend (Alon Levi) is too famous to come out as gay, while Yael is having a fling with her boss (Lior Ashkenazi). And while all of these storylines make the film feel a bit overcrowded, they're easily kept apart because Fox colour-codes the entire movie, giving each character his or her own hue, like Teletubbies.
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The movie's main character is Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi), a stoic killer who works for the Israeli government. Though he is still excellent at his job, he's having personal problems. Sensing that he needs some time to regain his footing, Eyal's boss assigns him to find an elderly Nazi officer. Eyal dismisses the assignment as unnecessary -- the officer is close to death -- but his boss is adamant: "I want to get him before God does." The Nazi's whereabouts are unknown, but his adult grandchildren are in Israel. Pia (Caroline Peters) is working on a kibbutz, and her schoolteacher brother Axel (Knut Berger) is visiting from Berlin. Eyal poses as Axel's tour guide, while the recording device in Pia's dorm covers what he misses.
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The BBC drama starring Aidan Turner returns to BBC One on September 4th.