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‘For Sasha’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 12, 1992


Alexandre Arcady
Sophie Marceau;
Richard Berry;
Frederic Quiring;
Niels Dubost;
Fabien Orcier;
Shlomit Cohen
Not rated

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"For Sasha" is Alexandre Arcady's bucolic, hyperbolic, rather blurry look at love and war on the kibbutz. In it the French director attempts to link the suicide of a teenage Parisian with the death of an Israeli soldier during the Six Day War. But the only thing that seems to tie the two together -- aside from a long-ago affair -- is that they are no longer among the living.

The screenplay, which was written by Arcady and longtime collaborator Daniel Saint-Hamont, throws us off the trail from the outset, for it focuses on neither the suicide nor the soldier but on a fair shiksa, Laura (Sophie Marceau), who has given up the bourgeois comforts of Paris for a more strenuous life on Kibbutz Yardena. Laura's current lover, Sasha (Richard Berry), and three young friends from home vie for the idealistic coquette's attentions during a fractious reunion on the shores of Lake Tiberias.

The five are fast, outspoken friends who united behind Sasha, their former high school philosophy professor. Twenty years their senior but every bit as adolescently right-thinking, Sasha emigrated to Israel a few years earlier with the teenage Laura, whose new maturity now both confuses and impresses her three friends. Once a promising violinist, Laura now picks grapefruits under the watchful eye of the Syrians on the Golan Heights.

The young men -- randy Michel (Frederic Quiring), solid Simon (Niels Dubost) and gloomy Paul (Fabien Orcier) -- have come to celebrate Laura's 20th birthday, an occasion that is ultimately tarnished by bad memories and the outbreak of war. Arguing, smoking, dancing the hora and chasing big-breasted kibbutzniks are among the pursuits they enjoy. Each is also assigned to daily work details -- picking cotton, shoveling up after the horses, washing dishes -- as is customary on a kibbutz.

The key to understanding the story -- the birthday-party suicide of a sixth member of the circle (Shlomit Cohen) -- comes up so late into the film, it seems to belong to another movie. The central issue to this point has been Sasha's unwillingness to make a commitment to Laura, who remains passionately committed to him and his mission in life, whatever that is. The two story lines do relate but only on an unsatisfyingly cerebral level. Passion is death, the director seems to be saying, whether one is a puppy-lovesick teen or a middle-aged patriot.

At heart, "For Sasha" is a melodrama with an inclination to espouse vapid aphorisms -- "Try to hold on to love and it slips away" or "Leave when you are in love" -- when it's not romanticizing the thorny geopolitics of the Middle East.

"For Sasha" is unrated but contains adult material.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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