FREE ZONE (Amos Gitai). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (June 2). Some subtitles. For venues and times, see Movies, page 195. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
There's nothing inherently wrong with long set-ups, but we're 50 minutes into Free Zone before the story actually begins. Until then, the film just shows conversations in cars and the sights from the car window, none of it particularly interesting and only thematically relevant to the narrative part of the film. Veteran Israeli director Amos Gitai might be trying to convey the importance of memory, or cars, but it feels more like an attempt to cobble together something from a load of dull footage.
The story, when it finally arrives, is about an Israeli woman ( Hanna Laszlo ) who enters the Free Zone, a border area where Arabs and Jews can trade safely, to collect a debt from a Palestinian woman ( Hiam Abbass ). But the money is missing and the woman's house in flames. An American ( Natalie Portman ) comes along for the ride.
If meant as allegory, it's not a very insightful one from an outsider's point of view. If meant as ordinary character drama, it feels like an underdeveloped sketch.
Laszlo picked up a best-actress award for this at Cannes last year, and Portman and Abbass do equally credible low-key, naturalistic jobs.
Problem is, they don't have all that much to do.