Samuel Maoz’s audacious debut feature Lebanon (2009) was set entirely within the sweaty confines of an Israeli tank trundling across enemy territory during the 1982 Lebanon war. But somehow, his belated follow-up Foxtrot is an even more claustrophobic experience. It opens in wrenching fashion, with soldiers visiting the Tel Aviv apartment of Daphna (Sarah Adler) and Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) to break the news to the affluent couple that their son Jonathan has died in the line of duty. In what almost feels like real time, we watch the parents’ world collapse around them. The tone Maoz strikes is compassionate yet utterly unflinching. Just as the relentless domestic drudgery threatens to grow tedious, a darkly comic revelation turns the whole scenario on its head. From here, the film morphs into a playful portrait of the absurdity of life as a conscripted Israeli soldier, peppered with self-conscious directorial flourishes that have had many critics swooning in admiration, but others rolling their eyes in disdain. While I found the sudden injection of Felliniesque flamboyance a little grating, Maoz ultimately steers the film away from tweeness with a bitterly cruel final-act twist.
Foxtrot | Directed by Samuel Maoz (Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland 2017) with Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler. Starts July 12.
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