Bat-El Papura (left), Adir Miller and Tuval Shafir) star in The Matchmaker.
THE MATCHMAKER (Avi Nesher). 112 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 31). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
The Matchmaker is an awkward but occasionally affecting coming-of-age drama about a teenager (Tuval Shafir) who spends a transformative summer working for a shady matchmaker (Adir Miller) in 1968 Haifa.
The kid's story is fairly generic: our young hero alternately bristles at his apprenticeship and lusts after a friend's sexpot cousin (Neta Porat). But the world of matchmaker Yankele gives the film a tragic subtext that keeps us watching even when the film's at its most banal.
A Romanian Jew who survived the Nazi camps, Yankele is part of an unacknowledged underclass who must bear both their physical and emotional scars and the judgment of Israelis who suspect them of collaborating with the Germans. (How else could they have made it out?)
Director Avi Nesher spent years churning out crappy straight-to-video action and horror movies - Timebomb with Michael Biehn, Doppelganger with a pre-comeback Drew Barrymore - and his exploitation background can be felt in the uncertain pacing and particularly in its objectification of Porat.
Even so, it's encouraging to see him trying to make a film that actually says or means something. It's a good path to be on; here's hoping his next film is even better.