A Matter of Size Review - Fat Guys in Diapers, A Sumo Film, Made in Israel

A Matter of Size,” the opening film of the 5th Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, is an Israeli black comedy featuring emotionally impactful scenes that will resonate in your memory long after leaving the theater. The film’s indelible imagery and riveting dialogue explain why a long litany of film festivals have placed “A Matter of Size” in the kick-off position. The synopsis can be summarized succinctly as follows: a group of overweight Israelis, feeling defeated in their battle against the bulge, band together to form a Sumo wrestling team, coached by a sushi restaurant owner. Naturally, that oddball aspiration meets with all kinds of resistance and conflict. The inevitable result: you will laugh until you cry.

Frankly, in the past, I have not been much of a fan of Israeli cinema since, more often than not, it leans toward the political in a verbose, didactic manner, and the audience is often left feeling as though they were attending a mandatory college seminar in political science, primarily focused upon the ongoing, seemingly insoluble dialectic between Israel and Palestine.

The ultimate irony of “A Matter of Size,” is that, in terms of metaphor, it is probably one of THE most political Israeli films I have seen, yet it gets the message across in a very subtle entertaining way. Best of all, you end up feeling very good about Israel, Jews, and REAL PEOPLE by the time the film reaches its touching conclusion.

I underscore the words, “REAL PEOPLE,” because the genius of this film is that it remains immune from the toxic effects of the Hollywood Cult of Celebrity, which demands that so-called over-indulged, over-paid, “beautiful people” be featured as stars in every creative effort, no matter how vacuous they happen to be.

To that effect, the star of the film, Itzik Cohen, long famous for portrayals of drag queens, plays the role of Herzl, a gloomy obese person who suffers the taunts and jeers of a world that is conditioned to deplore all those who do not have the cheerful disposition of an infomercial pitch-clown or lack the body types championed by Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. His love interest is another fatty, Irit Kaplan (Zahava), who has a beautiful warm face attached to a mountain of flesh likely fueled by a longstanding diet of donuts, marshmallows, and salami. Cohen and Kaplan are the antithesis of Hollywood stereotype, yet their love story will resonate in the minds of all who have been smitten, and the film’s darkly comic ending stands as the most memorable love scene I have seen in years. Having watched more films than any human should be forced to endure, I fall into the category of “cynical bastard,” but that is one love scene that even left me with tears in my world weary eyes.

Now comes the bad news: the Weinstein Brothers have apparently optioned the English language remake rights to this brilliant film and likely will corrupt the masterpiece by starring such current favorites as Colin Farrell and Gwyneth Paltrow (garbed in “fat” suits). There is nothing more lamentable than watching the plethora of Hollywood airheads who spend most of their days and nights in gyms, beauty salons, and A-List parties attempt to re-create the feelings of society’s outcasts. Very rarely achieved!

In any case, it took three creative geniuses to shape “A Matter of Size, “ and they are Israeli directors, Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, plus screenwriter, Danny Cohen-Solal. If they can remain independent of the Hollywood Brainwash Machine, so often championing the lowest common denominator, then Maymon and Tadmor could become the next Coen brothers; in fact, given that the Coen brothers seem incapable of ending their films in any kind of intelligible manner, Maymon and Tadmor could well supplant them as the leading architects of thoughtful cinematic dark comedy.

As I stated earlier, I consider “A Matter of Size,” to be one of THE most brilliant Israeli films insofar as presenting what amounts to political metaphor in a very entertaining manner. The Sumo wrestler stands as a symbol for Israel and Jews alike given that both inhabit a world in which relentlessly ruthless enemies would like to “force them out of the ring” of the international community. The very choice of the protagonist’s name, Herzl, stands as metaphor for the luminary, Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism. The love interest, Zahava, connotes Jerusalem of Gold (zahav), and represents the politically incorrect love for Jerusalem, not to mention the desire held by most Israelis to include ALL of Jerusalem into the Land of Israel. Initially, the fat Sumo Israelis are outcasts and misfits in their own land, just as Israel and Jews often are regarded as undesirables by a long litany of nations. Yet, the ultimate dream of the Sumo Israelis is the achievement of success and ACCEPTANCE, not for what people think they should be, but simply for who they are. In the end of the film, the Sumo wrestler, Herzl, stands tall and NOBODY can force him out of the ring. As a metaphor for Israel and international Jewry itself, the analogy should be self-evident.

Two final points worth noting:

First, the major flaw in this film is the title itself….A Matter of Size….it is generic, forgettable, and absolutely terrible. I had to refer to my notes several times in order to remind myself of the film title, and that is a curse for any film that is undergoing region-by-region platform distribution dependent upon word-of-mouth. The film distribution is handled by a sharp fellow named Neil Friedman, head of art house cinema specialist, Menemsha Films, and he should be far smarter than to allow such a flagrant defect in title selection.

Second, a most inspiring speech introducing the film was delivered by Israeli consul-general, Jacob Dayan, who indicated that, in a better world, both the Jewish Film Festival and Israeli Film Festival might merge together someday since they ought not be mutually exclusive events, given that most Israelis are Jews and most Jews support Israel. In my mind, the exec committees of both festivals should have a meeting sooner than later and consider merging their efforts. The net result would be the creation of a much more prominent film festival that could secure far greater attention and interest from the Media, the film industry, and any potential audience.

"A Matter of Size,” Unrated, 90 minutes,

Directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor

Screenplay by Sharon Maymon and Danny Cohen-Solal

Starring Itzik Cohen (Herzl) and Irit Kaplan (Zahava)

Distributed by Menemsha Films

http://www.menemshafilms.com/

Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival

http://www.lajfilmfest.org/

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