Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Jerusalem File (1972)

          Filmed on location in Israel, terrorism-themed thriller The Jerusalem File has enough local color for two movies, familiar professionals in major roles, and a respectable number of action scenes. Accordingly, The Jerusalem File has all the right ingredients for a solid dose of international intrigue. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to construct a compelling screenplay populated by dimensional characters. The premise of The Jerusalem File makes sense, but scene-to-scene logic is murky. During several passages, it’s hard to discern what’s happening to whom and why, leaving the viewer with no recourse but to groove on actors glowering menacingly or to passively thrill at scenes of gunplay. Hardly the stuff of a memorable viewing experience.
          David (Bruce Davison) is an American student working on an archaeological dig supervised by Professor Lang (Nicol Williamson). One day, David has coffee with Raschid (Zeev Revah), an Arab militant with whom he is friendly, and representatives of a rival Arab faction commit a drive-by shooting, killing several people but missing their main target, Raschid. This event puts David on the radar of dogged local cop Chief Samuels (Donald Pleasance), who uses David to draw Raschid out of hiding. Before long, David finds himself in the crossfire of various political agendas, so lots of people chase him and shoot at him. Also figuring into the story is Nurit (Daria Halprin), a young Israeli involved in a romantic triangle with David and Lang, and mystery man Barak (Koya Yair Rubin), another participant in the archeological dig.
          Given the lack of depth on the characters, it’s impossible to care much about what happens to them, even though Davison’s mixture of intensity and sincerity creates the illusion that his character has real emotions, if not a fully rounded personality. Williamson is also highly watchable, though it’s never clear where his character’s allegiances lie, and Pleasance sleepwalks through his paper-thin role. (One more note on the cast: This was the last movie role for Halprin, previously seen in just two other movies, 1968’s Revolution and 1970’s Zabriskie Point.) Among this movie’s many wasted opportunities, perhaps none is more glaring than the failure of the filmmakers to meaningfully engage with the fraught politics of the Middle East—seeing as how it’s difficult to understand most of what’s happening onscreen, decoding any messages hidden inside those events is impossible.

The Jerusalem File: FUNKY


hsc said...

"...representatives of a rival Arab fashion commit a drive-by shooting, killing several people but missing their main target..."

Turn to the left!
Turn to the right!
Oooh, fashion!
We are the goon squad and we're coming to town!

-- David Bowie

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I'm glad you're still finding little nuggets to post on and are keeping this incredible blog going. I was really dreading it coming to an end when you announced it was almost done.

Thank you for all your great writing!

By Peter Hanson said...

The Bowie-inflected version probably would have been a better movie... Yes, still finding a few things, and who knows what oddities might eventually find their way onto streaming platforms? To offer just one example of the strange stuff I still hope to track down someday, there's a picture called "Why?" that seems to have disappeared completely -- it's a indie flick about group therapy featuring Jennie Berlin and (wait for it) O.J. Simpson. I'm sure it's far more interesting in my imaginings than it is in fact, but still...