Cannes Film Festival: The headline is 'Footnote,' now leading my list of Cannes favorites


Image Credit: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The rich helping of grand Movie Music ladled over the great Israeli drama Footnote is just one of the many touches from filmmaker Joseph Cedar that make this invigorating Competition entry my favorite movie to date. (To date, by the way, is Saturday early evening, after a screening of the sadistic and meaninglessly voyeuristic Austrian pedophile drama Michael and before a screening of the latest from the Dardennes brothers.) Yes indeed, the music assures, there is no dramatic subject more titanic, more fraught, more Biblically elemental, more hilariously heartbreaking (or is it heartbreakingly hilarious?) and (in Cedar’s talented hands) more cinematic than the relationship between an

elderly father and his grown son. Especially when the father and son are rival professors, both specializing in the arcane specialty of Talmudic studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Here’s the crisis in a nutshell: Eliezer (Shlomo Bar Aba, with a dyspeptic scowl Walter Matthau would have admired), has devoted his entire life to a stubbornly precise, methodical, microscopic study of the subject, with few accolades to show for it. His son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi, above, communicating a dozen conflicting emotions at once behind professorial eyeglasses) approaches the subject from a broader, more anecdotal and interpretive point of view, and he’s got a shelf of awards. Then one day, Eliezer is named for a prize, a big one. And really big trouble begins.

You say you’re not interested in Talmudic studies? Doesn’t matter! The Old Testament-sized father-son tensions are  relatable in any culture. Eliezer and Uriel, each created with marvelous specificity, are the most interesting, flawed, realistic characters I’ve seen in ages. Meanwhile, Cedar pulls off a feat of intellectual and cinematic elegance: The whole movie is, in its way, a Talmudic lesson. There’s real philosophical depth and clarity to the script. Plus, it’s funny and smart, it’s told with wild, inventive cinematic flourishes and experimental grace notes, and Bar Aba and Ashkenazi deserve awards on their own shelves for their performances.

Footnote is Cedar’s fourth feature, following three previous beauties: Beaufort (2007), Campfire (2004), and Time of Favor (2001). He’s the real deal.

Comments (19 total) Add your comment
  • Radzinsky

    I’ve heard “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is the best one yet. Also heard great things about “Sleeping Beauty.”

  • Liz Lemon

    “We Need to Talk About Kevin” with Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton, and John C. Reilly is getting a lot of buzz.

  • salma

    really! because i just saw a french tv show in wich they ask movie critics to rate cannes’ movies and thez hated it!!!
    liz lemon is wright there is a lot of buzz around “we need to talk about kevin” and also around a french movie called “Polisse” by Maiwen who is aperently the best movie so far

  • Marten

    Whatever, just give me Tree of Life. It’s the only film there I care about.

    • DumpsterFire


  • Bob

    That there’s only a few comments on this series only highlights that EW readers don’t care about indie and foreign films. That’s a broad blanket assertion, but come on, you get hundreds of comments on American Idol and only a few on these posts. Or you get many on the latest Hollywood blockbuster when the only only ones making real movies live outside Hollywood, and, no offense to the hard work and dedication of producers of American independent film, outside the US borders. We as a people need to become intelligent in all areas. One way to start is seeing smarter and better movies.

    • Bob

      That was harsh and unfair. American indies are good, but hampered by a massively financed commercial culture that tries to make them extinct every chance it gets.

      • bropo

        i agree

  • Cate

    Maybe there aren’t any comments because we haven’t had a chance to see anything at Cannes, thus don’t have anything to comment on. I think this sounds like a fantastic film and would love to see it.

  • Liz Lemon

    @Cate: I agree. I love Indie films, but there’s only so much you can say if you don’t know anything about them or haven’t seen them. With big commercial films, there’s usually so much press that you have idea. Plus, most of the are sequels, based on books, or are remakes, so that gives people a lot to discuss.

  • oooffice

    that guy looks like a fatter steve carrell.

    • Anne

      That guy is a very good looking guy in real life, he changed himself for this role.


    En train of competition are the Japanese films, i.e. Hanezu (Hanezu no Tsuki), . . . and Harakiri: Death of a Samurai, as well — the original score of the latter also unique to the world-renowned Oscar winner Ryuichi Sakamoto.


    Just say’n.

  • yael

    It’s interesting you compared Bar Aba to Walter Matthau – Bar Aba appeared on the Israeli stage in the same role Matthau played in Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, and he was superb.

  • Shimon

    Yes, Footnote is a Great movie, a kind of twist on the Sacrifice of Isaac,absolutely first rate. Thanks for a great write-up.

  • AG

    This is the best movie I have seen this year. I was really surprised by the depth of the plot and the excellent play of the actors. Clearly Footnote is a masterpiece

  • Laura

    This is a brilliant film, brilliantly acted by Shlomo Bar Aba, perfect down to the minutest details.

  • paulsmithsale

    Great article. I cant wait to hear more about your research tool. If it is as good as your other products, then you will have another winner. Your article pretty much summed up what I have been seeing too. Great to see some hard data.

  • Wil Meijer

    Fantastische film.
    Weet iemand welke Israelische groep het drum-stuk in de film speelt?
    Wil Meijer.

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