The Matchmaker Review
The Matchmaker Review - Jewish AdvocateDaniel M. Kimmel The Jewish Advocate
Movie Review: Fresh, shrewd ‘Matchmaker’
By Daniel M. Kimmel, Movie Maven
June 13th, 2012
“The Matchmaker” is a coming of age story in which a teenage boy begins to see the world as an adult. This Israeli film, set in 1968 Haifa, puts a fresh spin on the material that makes you forget it’s an ofttold tale.
It opens with Arik Burstein discovering he has been left a hefty inheritance by Yankele Bride, a man he had not seen since his youth and with whom he parted under strained circumstances. Baffled by this turn of events he thinks back to the summer he worked for Yankele, and the story really begins. Yankele (Israeli comic Adir Miller) is a matchmaker looking to drum up business. He runs into Arik (Tuval Shafir), who makes up a story about having a sister in need of his services. He and his friends think it’s a hilarious prank.
Yankele, however shows up at the Burstein home and discovers that Arik’s father is an old childhood friend from Romania. Both of them are Holocaust survivors, but in 1968 it was something people didn’t talk about – instead they would just make vague references to what had happened “there.” Arik, a budding writer who is a fan of detective fiction, goes to work as Yankele’s “spy guy.” His job is to check up on clients and matches to see if they’re on the level.
In this role Arik discovers a new world. Yankele’s office is in the “Lower City” – the “bad” part of Haifa – where Arik rubs shoulders with prostitutes, smugglers and a family of dwarfs running a movie theater specializing in love stories, particularly from India. (The last is based on a real family of survivors who ran just such a theater.) Arik is also dealing with Tamara (Neta Porat), the visiting cousin of his best friend who has lived in America and espouses both rock ’n’ roll and “free love,” even if she’s not quite sure what the latter means.
It’s a fascinating world that writer/director Avi Nesher opens up for us. It’s a time when the Holocaust is not discussed openly, yet there are popular books on the subject that amount to soft-core pornography focusing on sex between guards and prisoners. Arik, the son of survivors who don’t discuss the past and a teenager filled with raging hormones, reads one of these books along with the detective fiction that so inspires him. Clara (Maya Dagan), another survivor, adds further complications to the story in that she provides “lessons” in courtship for Yankele’s clients, yet is unable to respond to Yankele’s obvious love for her.
Arik tries to make sense out of the secrets and lies, the confusion and new feelings, while learning important life lessons from Yankele. Most important is that he should not rely on surface impressions, whether in assuming a prospect is having an affair or that someone else is unworthy or incapable of love. “The Matchmaker” takes us back to an age when we start trying to make sense of the adult world, and reminds us of just how complicated a process that can be.
Read this review at The Jewish Advocate.
Visit the The Matchmaker movie page