"Fictitious Marriage" is a naive and crudely made Israeli import, grainy and laughable but with its heart in the right place. Written and directed by Haim Bouzaglo, the political comedy takes a decidedly sympathetic look at the hard-working, God-fearing Arabs of the Gaza Strip.
Shlomo Bar-Aba plays Eldad Illan, a teacher who says goodbye to his wife (Ofra Viengarten) in Jerusalem, goes to Lod Airport for a flight to New York and then sneaks back to Tel Aviv. Illan, apparently undergoing a midlife crisis, pretends to be a naturalized American and checks into a cheesy hotel staffed by an amicable Arab bellhop and a wiggly Israeli concierge (Irit Sheleg). Later, while sitting in the park, he is mistaken for a fellow Arab by a construction foreman, who takes Illan, now feigning dumbness, under his wing.
Every day Illan goes off to work with the Arabs, who share their simple meals and kinship. In the evenings he delights in the charms of the ditsy concierge, who thinks he plans to marry her and take her to a fairy-tale America -- hence the title "Fictitious Marriage." Meanwhile a detective who has discovered Illan's luggage at the airport begins to move in on his lost weekend.
Cow-eyed and lumpy, Bar-Aba is not Hollywood's idea of a matinee lover, but he gets around like Mel Gibson in this dormant farce. Apart from his wife and the concierge, he enjoys a tryst with a Rubenesque artist who struts her stuff for the construction workers, who respond like, well, construction workers. When she asks the foreman to send a man over to patch a crack in her wall, Illan wins the long straw.
In what is probably the movie's most ludicrous moment, the artist sings of her experience to a rock beat: "I had a crack. He came. He had no detonation charge. My sabotage. He filled up the crack and opened another ..." Her girlfriends, previously disgusted by her liaison, join in on the chorus.
"Fictitious Marriage" has its moments, but they are rare and lost in the jumble of styles and story lines. Its differences are irreconcilable.
Fictitious Marriage, at the Biograph in Hebrew with English and Arabic subtitles, is unrated.