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Kino on Video presents
La Petite Jérusalem (2005)

"Passion is an illusion entailing the loss of autonomy and freedom."
- Laura (Fanny Valette)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 11, 2006

Stars: Fanny Valette, Elsa Zylberstein, Bruno Todeschini, Hedi Tillette de Clermont Tonnerre, Sonia Tahar, Michaël Cohen, Aurore Clement
Director: Karin Albou

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:33m:24s
Release Date: September 12, 2006
UPC: 738329049621
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-BB C+

DVD Review

Thoughtful is one thing, but ponderous to the point of boredom is another; alas, both this film and the characters in it fall on the wrong side of that line. This slow, schematic movie seems frequently to have its heart in the right place, but it's very bad at evoking empathy for the characters; instead of feeling with them, we spend our time connecting the dots, and it's a great but predictable disappointment that the story offers no surprises. It really makes for some tough going.

The movie has atmospherics working for it, anyway, and a keen sense of place—the title refers to the Parisian suburb that has seen in recent years an influx of North African immigrants, and most of the story concerns a Sephardic Orthodox Jewish family. Most prominent among them is Laura, who studies philosophy and feels suffocated by her family; she'd love to move out, but her job as a cleaning lady wouldn't provide her with nearly enough to make rent. Her widowed mother cares nothing for her daughter's academic ambitions, and wants only to see Laura get married; the de facto patriarch is Ariel, Laura's sister's husband, who makes the women in the family cower. He is alas very much of the do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do school, for while he preaches religious virtues, his wife discovers ample evidence of his infidelities.

The intellectual face-off in the film is overt—at home, Laura gets the Talmud drilled into her; on her own and at the university, she responds to Kant, and she's pulled between the forces of philosophy and religion. But the debate seems intellectually facile and without passion—it is on some level a movie about which set of rules she's going to follow, and there's not a lot of dramatic juice in that. More promising is the relationship between Laura and Djamel, a Muslim colleague—writer/director Karin Albou makes a go at the star-crossed-lovers thing with a dollop of religious and ethnic intolerance tossed in for good measure, but it's kind of too little too late.

We're at such a clinical distance from these characters for the whole film, and you start to suspect that Albou doesn't much care for them herself, or isn't committed enough to give them the kind of dimensionality and particularity that they need. Any movie that works about as well on a graph or a flow chart as on screen probably isn't worth watching.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A respectable transfer, with consistent color levels, though the image can get a little jittery at times; you'll notice some debris every now and again, as well.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French and Hebrewno

Audio Transfer Review: There's a fair amount of hiss, but unless both your French and your Hebrew are stellar and you can ignore the subtitles, it's unlikely to distract you too much.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. stills gallery
Extras Review: In an interview (16m:55s), Albou is thoughtful, and you'll watch it and wish her movie were better; this piece is also clogged with clips from the feature, and gives away just about all of the plot. There's also a stills gallery, with 18 images from the film.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Overly schematic and drearily ponderous, the occasional bright moment here doesn't redeem it or make the movie worth watching.


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