OBJECTIVE: Give Bill twenty bucks every month. Watch the foreign film he brings back without any subtitles. Figure out what the hell is going on.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008, Israel)

REMAINING CHANGE: On the house, baby. At this point, I owe Bill a lot of money.

THE HISTORY AS I UNDERSTAND IT:
Before I begin talking about this movie, I should probably give a condensed history lesson that is around 75% accurate. In 1917, after gaining control of Palestine, Britain announced their intentions in the Balfour Declaration that Palestine would become a national home for the Jewish people. Shortly after, the areas known today as Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip were mandated to Britain and called the British Mandate of Palestine. After Britain terminated the mandate in 1948, the Jewish population announced the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, which was viewed by most people in the region as decidedly not cool. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in response, and after a series of Arab-Israeli conflict, the PLO found themselves situated in Lebanon.

During the 1970s, Lebanese forces led by Bashir Gemayel, a Christian, fought to repel the PLO and Syrian forces inside Lebanon. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to eradicate the PLO; however, the by now President-elect Bashir, after meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, was unwilling to sign a peace treaty with Israel and publicly denied their support in the fight against the PLO. Bashir, now hopelessly entrenched against both the Muslim PLO and Syria and the Jewish state of Israel, was assassinated only weeks later by Syrian nationalists.

Bashir, before he flew too close to the sun.

So, anyway, this movie is about that invasion.

THE PLOT AS THEY WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND IT:
The movie is a series of interviews done in Hebrew, because Bill must really hate me. The man doing all the interviews, and occasionally talking with his friends about the same stuff he talks about with his interviewees, is a man known only as Gray Beard. Well, at least only known to me as Gray Beard.

I would kill to know the Hebrew spelling of Dos Equis.

Gray Beard is a former Israeli soldier who took part in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He likely suffers from PTSD, as you can tell by every time he appears as a young soldier.

“Am I sad because I’m a cartoon, or am I a cartoon because I’m sad?”

The movie features a recurring scene of Gray Beard’s past that still haunts him: the time he went skinny dipping with his friends in a river of urine and they all got jaundice.

The third worst swimming scene behind Bad Education and Samurai Princess.

This sort of haunts him, too.

I’d say it’s 50/50 this and the skinny dipping.

Throughout the movie, Gray Beard interviews former soldiers and civilians associated with the invasion. These men have names like Dror and Shmuel, which are shockingly not on this list. Perhaps you think I’m ignorant for thinking those names are funny, but that’s only if your name is Dror or Shmuel. The soldiers Gray Beard interviews are good reminders that, despite fighting for a unified cause, the people in uniform are still dynamic and unique humans. On the one hand, we have Shmuel, who was a hardened soldier who blew away an adolescent that fired upon his squad with an RPG. Sure, Shmuel might not have had any choice, but he doesn’t show an ounce of regret. Shmuel also tells the implausible story about a soldier dancing around during a firefight and leaving a mural of Bashir riddled with bullets. OH! I get the title now. Anyway, Shmuel is totally a heartless liar.

“Would you like to join my school for gifted youngsters? 

Then there’s Ronny: his story is about  a narrow escape across a beach and his struggle to stay afloat until he lands ashore back at an Israeli camp. Here’s a picture of Ronny:

His escape was made easier with his Mr. Clean genie powers.

Is that Shmuel in glasses? And–-wait. Is that…

Pimp as hell? Yes.

T-Pain! That is T-Pain. Ronny’s daughter went to prom in a conservative white sweater with T-Pain. Why? How? Ronny is a simple mensch, and his daughter is hanging out with T-Pain. Something is rotten in the Jewish state of Israel. Something tells me that this “Ronny” character is hiding something. T-Pain doesn’t take your daughter out on a date in her frumpy sweater unless you’ve got something he wants. Ronny has got something that T-Pain wants, and it’s enough to make Mr. Pain change his auto-tune about Ronny’s daughter. It’s almost like Ronny made a profit off the invasion that he’s trying to keep hidden, but I’m probably reading too much into it.

Well, notwithstanding those two shady characters, Gray Beard heals his past wounds by listening to others talk about their own wounds. It’s not all terrible, though. In fact, there’s a pretty great scene when the Israeli troops have taken control of a Lebanese villa and raid the owner’s porn collection. HA!

The least known and most rewarded Mario Brother, Giuseppe. 

GERMAN PORN?! Ok, let’s calm down and have a recap of what we’ve learned: Heartless, lying, and sleazy Jewish soldiers/warmongers invade a country to commit atrocities. What’s more, those monsters privately relish in a product of the great country of Germany. This movie almost seems like propaganda against barbaric Israelis who secretly envy Germany, but there isn’t any possible reason why a–oh, oh, I see.

THE REAL PLOT:

Et tu, Brute?

Nice try, Nazi collaborators.

THE “OKAY, YOU LOST ME” MOMENT:
One of the former soldiers recounts how he survived a jet bombing when a naked giantess backstroked up to the yacht he was partying on with fellow soldiers and whisked him away just before the jet flew in to destroy it.

“And, I have a girlfriend but I met her at summer camp so you don’t know her.”

And, uh, Larry King was there for two seconds.

“I can’t talk right now, I’m busy eating my tiny dinner.”

HOW MUCH I ENJOYED WHAT THE NAZIS WANTED ME TO THINK WAS HAPPENING:
Enjoyed isn’t the right word, but this movie had me captivated. The animation is beautiful even when the scene is ugly and occasionally scenes transition in seamless time-lapse sequences that I watched twice over to really enjoy them. Yet, the subject matter is heavy and the movie ends with real tragic footage that left me with a lot of emotions, none of them good.

And now, Cinemanaut Bill ranks James on his ability to comprehend the film.

  • Nailed it: James continues his streak of being able to identify sheer horror in any language.
  • Failed it: Gray Beard’s real name is Ari Folman, which James somehow missed despite his credits for directing, producing, writing, acting, and PTSDing. Also, one of the major themes of the film is the nature of memory, but aside from the huge wet naked lady, James somewhat fittingly didn’t recall these scenes as vividly as the moments of terrible terribleness.
  • Improved it: T-PAAAaaaaaAAAAiiiiiIIIIiiiiIIIiiiiinnnnnNNNnnn.

FINAL GRADE: B-

James S. is a member of the Portland Comedy Co-op and doesn’t really use Twitter.