Friday, November 27, 2009
"Little Traitor" Charms His Way into Theaters
Odd Couple Friendship Tale Even Better on Second Viewing
"The Little Traitor" was first shown locally as part of the 2007 Palm Beach International Film Festival.
Since that time I have been to Israel and Jerusalem, where the story is set. On second viewing and with local knowledge I enjoyed this film by Lynn Roth even more.
"Little Traitor" is set in 1947, just a few months befoe Israel gained its independence. The ancient city looks much the same now as then. Then as now peace remains a fragile, precarious thing. Only the characters and nationalities have changed.
The "traitor" of the title is 11-year-old Proffy Liebowitz (wide-eyed Ido Port), the son of recent Jewish immigrants from Poland.
Proffy's family is part of a huge wave of refugees from Nazi-ravaged Europe, many of them concentration camp survivors, all yearning to find freedom and peace in the promised land.
What they found instead was stern repression from British troops, who had occupied Palestine as a protectorate since the end of World War I.
The Brits are hated symbols of authorty, especially among children who see things in black and white.
Proffy and his thuggish pals delight in harassing the British with grafitti and pranks. Now they are graduating to serious business: home made nail bombs.
In the course of mischief, Proffy misses the rigidly enforced 6 p.m. curfew.
He is collared by Sgt. Dunlop (Alfred Molina), who give him a serious lecture.
Instead of taking the lad to the brig, Dunlop escorts the boy home and explains to his parents what he has done.
The parents are frightened and angry, but grateful the soldier has given little Proffy another chance.
After a period of confinement to his bedroom, Proffy contemplates the seriousness of his offense and the selfless kindess shown him by the British stranger.
So begins a variation on the time-honored odd-couple, opposites-attract friendship between boy and man. Mixed into the plot, based on the novel "Panther in the Basement," by Amos Oz, is a coming-of-age tale enhanced by the prescence of luscious Gilya Stern as Miriam, a comely neighbor and object of Proffy's Peeping-Tom binoculars.
Alfred Molina is one of the finest British actors in the world today. He is ideally-suited to the role of bemused, fatherly and homesick Sgt. Dunlop. The bittersweet irony is that Sgt. Dunlop is a better father figure than Proffy's own distant, distracted dad ((Rami Heuberger).
Newcomer Ido Port is a most appealing, natural actor who meshes beautifully with the celebrated Molina.
"Little Traitor" is heartwarming in the best sense of the world; offering the fond hope that adversaries can somehow reconcile their differences and live together in peace. Would that it were true.