Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Outstanding Cinematography Of Foxtrot Alone Makes This A Movie Worth Seeing

The camera is constantly on the move in Foxtrot, which isn't normally a visual characteristic you'd imagine would be applied to a quiet drama about coping with past transgressions. Many similar films go for a restrained style of camerawork that can work beautifully for their specific stories but who's to say the opposite approach also can't work like gangbusters? One size does not fit all, as they say, and Foxtrot demonstrates just how fitting more active camerawork can be to certain small-scale stories about human grief and remorse. Going for this approach means Foxtrot gets to have some truly remarkable cinematography that serves as an outstanding visual compliment to its thoughtful father/son story.

That story begins with father Michael Feldmann (Lior Ashkenazi) learning of a terrible development: his son, Jonathan (Yonathan Shiray), has died. Clearly, this sends Michael's world into turmoil as he can barely comprehend the idea that his son has perished in the line of duty. As part of his coping process and as an extension of his overall toxic approach to the world at large, he begins to lash out at everyone and everything in his path. The middle portion of the story takes the viewer away from Michael's struggles to accept his son's demise and focuses on Jonathan and his duties at a remote military checkpoint before an extended animation sequence serves a bridge between this section of Foxtrot and the final sequences of the film chronicling Michael and his closest relatives in a state of grief at their home.

Before Jonathan headed out into his military duties, his father told him "one last bedtime story" because the act of going into combat meant that he was finally a man. This was his father defined his son finally becoming a man, just as Michael felt that his teenage self selling a Holocaust heirloom from his mother to buy a Penthouse magazine was the definitive sign that he was now a man. There is clearly a warped and narrow definition of what it means to be a man in the eyes of the Feldmann family and Foxtrot examines the ripple effects of how solely resorting to excessive acts of gung-ho aggression that are seen as symbols of masculine dominance can lead to ruin.

Even the stubborn and abrasive Michael must come to terms with how his toxically masculine behavior (which manifests in actions like constantly kicking his dog that are like second-nature to him at this point) has hurt himself and the ones he supposed to love. As the aforementioned animated sequence, which is representative of drawings Jonathan has doodled, demonstrates, Michael has carved himself into the image of a seemingly perfect family man with a good job and happy children, but behind closed doors, his demeanor that resorts to fury before anything else leaves him separated from everyone around him. The death of his son doesn't lead him to introspection (at least, not right away) but rather to bury himself deeper in anger at those who have brought him this news and to isolate himself from concerned family members.

What kind of negative consequences lie in wait for those who constantly default to toxic behaviors like violence that are thought of as traditionally making somebody a proper man extend into the scenes showing Jonathan, one of which see him making a cruel mistake during the inspection of a car that will haunt him to the end of his days. This mistake comes at the end of an incredibly tense scene that's beautifully executed by both director Samuel Maoz and cinematographer Giora Bejach, even before Jonathan makes his fateful rash decision, one can feel that a storm of sorts is brewing just by way of the camerawork in this sequence. It's yet another impressive piece of visual filmmaking, one of the numerous instances of Giora Bejach just knocking the cinematography of Foxtrot out of the park.

Bejach's use of God's-Eye-View shots throughout the film is similarly well-done, especially when they're done in the first moments after Michael learns that his son has perished. Seeing the character from an angle that emphasizes how small he is just in his own living room, let alone in the larger universe, conveys the characters interior turmoil beautifully. Lior Ashkenazi similarly captures what makes the character of Michael tick in a wonderful fashion, he conveys this man's pent-up weariness just as well as how Yonathan Shiray communicates his role's youthful spirit, a spirit that juxtaposes against his characters remote intensely unpredictable surroundings nicely. The performances and cinematography go hand-in-hand with the numerous other areas where Foxtrot excels to make this an exceptionally thoughtful contemplation on how much of a ripple toxic male identity run amuck can have.

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