‘Lebanon’ is no ‘Apocalypse Now’
Wed, Sep 22, 2010 (7:13 p.m.)
Confined almost entirely to the interior of a single tank—a formalist stunt that becomes exponentially less impressive with each successive reel—Lebanon is Israeli director Samuel Maoz’s fictionalized account of his harrowing experiences in the 1982 Lebanon War. The film somehow won the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival, even though Maoz traffics in one-dimensional characters (the tough guy, the peacemaker, the comic relief) and functional dialogue, and treats his only set not as an active environment but as a small, grimy room, forcing his able cast to fill the void with frantic activity and over-the-top emoting. Even his use of the gunner’s viewfinder gets botched: Rather than terrifying us with what isn’t quite visible, he makes such painfully crass moves as zooming slowly onto the eye of a dying donkey. The ’82 war may be Israel’s Vietnam, but the country’s filmmakers have yet to make its Apocalypse Now.