Toronto International Film Festival 2011: ‘Lipstikka’


Director: Jonathan Sagall

Cast: Clara Khoury, Nataly Attiya, Daniel Caltagirone, Moran Rosenblatt, Ziv Weiner

Country: Israel / United Kingdom

The story of two Palestinian refugees (one Christian and one Muslim) and their tumultuous, tortured relationship over 30 years, this provocative picture almost works. Set in both present day London and Ramallah in the late 1980s, the story is told in snatches and grabs. The principal character and occasional narrator is Lara (Clara Khoury), a repressed alcoholic living a lie as a housewife to a man she doesn’t love in a great big sterile home in suburban London. The morning after her birthday, she is visited by her old lover Inam (Nataly Attiya), and memories of their troubled childhood start to flood to the surface. In particular, Lara recalls the night the two of them slipped past the checkpoint to see a film and came across two young male Israeli soldiers, after which, things got complicated. But, what really happened that night?

Unfortunately, though the film does a careful job of setting up the mystery surrounding this event, and takes pains to pose the big questions surrounding the mutability of memory, the sloppily rendered third act leaves far too many questions unanswered, and far too many holes unfilled. Featuring terrific performances (especially from the two women playing Inam, Nataly Attiya and Moran Rosenblatt), but relying on lame metaphors about sex and war and psychology (occupation = rape, promiscuity = craziness), and featuring a truly gory scene that feels totally out of place, this was one of the more frustrating almost-great films I saw this week.

RATING 6 / 10