Synonyms. An Israeli In Paris (synonymes), By Diego Mate

Yoav's journey through French spaces

Yoav arrives in Paris with just a few bags. He stays in an empty apartment: cold and with just a few belongings, Yoav tries to bathe and when he comes out of the shower he has nothing, not even the sleeping bag. He runs naked to the alleged thieves all over the building without success; he asks for help to the screams but nobody answers him. Hours later, Emile and Caroline find him half dead in the bathtub and take him to his apartment. Something that could have been a prologue ends and the true story of Yoav begins, an Israeli lover of France who claims to have escaped from his country. There begins the process of training the protagonist: Tom Mercer makes a character who is pure body and sound, a kind of dancing and cheerful Kaspar Hauser who the couple undergoes a total learning that includes language, customs and love.

Series as a devastating satire

In a way, everything is used for a devastating satire: Yoav wants to be a clean slate, erase his past in Israel, his memories and fully merge with French culture. Some of this is already suggested at the beginning, when the protagonist’s belongings disappear: Yoav is stripped of everything but the fact is never clarified, not even shown to the alleged thieves, so you have to think that it is the film itself that he leaves him with nothing, naked, in a sequence shot that also tries hard to make us feel the elements in which the character is. That beginning could take the form of a kind Buñuela mystery if it were not for the almost Hanekian violence with which Lapid consumes it. Cruelty, a distinctive sign of his cinema (especially Policeman), announces a disaster, perhaps a long show of unpleasant evils about the protagonist. But the omen, happily, is short-lived: in the next scene, Yoav wakes up in Emile and Caroline’s bed, covered and cared for lovingly by them. The two help him with directions, clothes and money so that he can reach his destination. Theft and discomfort at the beginning feel distant, a scene from another movie.

From then on, Yoav’s journey through French spaces and institutions begins, but the devastating criticism never ends. Or, in any case, the satire is covered by the more or less candid story of the protagonist, as if Lapid was playing to invert a known formula: if the fable is generally the way to camouflaged criticism, the exact opposite happens here ; social comment becomes the vehicle to tell a story. For example, Yoav meets Yaron, an Israeli immigrant who goes everywhere presenting and shouting that he is Jewish, it does not matter if he is in the subway or in a bar. Yoav takes Yaron to his boss’s office at a security company: when Yaron tries to shake his hand, the guy makes him a key and starts a wrestling match. Minutes later, The newcomer is accepted and informed that the company holds clandestine fighting encounters with Parisian neo-Nazis twice a year. If in the quarrelsome character of Yaron there were, due to exaggerated metonymy, a criticism of the militarism of his country’s aggressive international policy, the scene of the fight dissipates it and proposes another key to reading, one in which comedy is absurd overcomes satire. Something similar happens when Yoav prepares to be a French citizen and attends language classes for immigrants: there should be no better scenario than that to make fun of patriotism and to humor with national stereotypes. Lapid has everything at hand but is dispatched with just some innocent jokes about Asians and Africans: laughter, on the other hand.

The staging is changeable and a bit erratic, even if everything is the result of a millimeter calculation: a very precise shot can be followed by a shaky hand camera that hardly allows us to see what it records. A dialogue filmed without cuts can be interrupted by the crazy movement of the camera that observes a lamp on the ceiling and Caroline that turns it off and turns it on. There is no clear project in these formal rattles, they are rather free style games that underpin from the image and sound the surprising course of the protagonist and his friends. As if Lapid were looking for new ways to film Paris and, avoiding the realism of the use, he ended up going back to some formal solutions from the 60s, especially from French cinema. The reference may not be idle:Breathless.


The film streaming, due to the story but also to the faint thinning of the setting, is losing its much-announced virulence: the story of the Israeli who knows the horrors of the army and leaves his country in search of a better life in France acquires the characteristics of a fable that evokes the texture of the first Nouvelle Vague. Lapid leads his film through terrain that is neither that of the expected national tirade nor that of corrosive national portraits, but that of a heartfelt allegory about a man escaping from his past and land without ever being able to leave them behind him.

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