Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Norman: the Fixer: Monday, May 8 2017

Norman: The moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2016) is an Israeli-American film, directed and written by Joseph Cedar. Cedar also directed and wrote his film, Footnote (2011), which won an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film, and lost to The Salesman. Lior Ashkenazi is a leading Israeli actor, and had worked with Cedar before, having a main part in Footnote.

Richard Gere brilliantly brings to life Norman Oppenheimer, who is an embarrassingly pathetic person. Lior Ashkenazi, plays with flair Micha Eshel, the Israeli politician, who becomes the Israeli Prime Minister. He is the consummate politician we all love to hate. In spite of their good looks, I found neither of these characters attractive, so that was a negative for me around the film. The rest of the cast were attractive to look at, and played their parts competently. The cinematography was adequate, with some nice shots, and the music was lovely. I enjoyed the cantor's singing, especially with the choirs. The film consists mainly of talking, too much talking, so I became bored and had difficulty staying awake.

There were fourteen of us in our group, and we retired to The Lounge at the Cineplex after the film. Fortunately, we had Chris among us, as he was able to tell us what had been going on in the film. None of us had a clue about the story line. In fact, Mike said he had an enjoyable sleep, which made me feel better about being so bored.

Richard Gere and Lior Ashkenazi and "the shoes"
What one has to know before seeing this movie is it is absolutely necessary to know that a New York Jewish "fixer" is what Jews call, a macher, a con man in other words. He is trying to find people who have needs and fix them up with other people who can fulfil those needs. He hopes to make some money in the process. I didn't know that, which meant I really had no idea what Norman was trying to do for a large part of the film. As I was struggling to stay awake, I missed the final clicking into place that led up to Norman's tragic fall. I was left with the questions, what had happened, what was it all about, and why was Norman preparing to take such a drastic measure to finalize the action that I hadn't understood anyway?

Part of the problem, I would surmise, lies with the direction. It might have been possible to explain what was going on for the totally ignorant, like me. Perhaps the pace could have been sped up a bit, and points made by changes in timing. New York Jews will probably thoroughly enjoy this film as they probably know Norman, and understand what he is about. Norman: the Fixer could be seen as a character study, but is this character worth studying? He is excruciatingly ingratiating and grovelling. I found him painfully revolting. He was exercising the talents of a salesperson, but to no positive effect. A salesperson has a product that others need and want.

I don't think I could recommend seeing this movie, which is such a pity as it has a good cast. If you like paying close attention to the interplay of the characters, lots of talking, and the intricacies of the plot, you might enjoy Norman. As Marianne said, our group should see it again, now that we have some idea of what it was about. I couldn't bear it. Maureen said she didn't really know how one would classify this film, but it wasn't entertainment to her. Everyone of our group thought they ought to have enjoyed it, after all it did have Richard Gere giving a great performance. Most were a little perplexed as to why they didn't really. It definitely does help if the story line is clear enough to follow relatively easily.

I often wonder what the director of a film is thinking about. Is he thinking about his audience at all? Does he care about his audience? Is he satisfying a creative urge inside himself, that he thinks everyone else ought to appreciate? Is he beating a large, bass drum about some issue? Does he care whether his film will make money? Is that too crass, and he is an artist expressing himself and exercising his special talents? Does the idea that people are paying their money to be entertained even enter his head? Is that kind of audience too asinine for him? What are some of them thinking?

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