Devarim is Amos Gitai's debut narrative feature and the first installment in his renowned "City Trilogy" (concluded by 1998's Yom Yom and 1999's Kadosh), a remarkable trio of films each based in one of Israel's thriving metropolises. Making full use of a decade of documentary experience, Gitai transformed Ya'ackov Shabatai's audacious single-sentence cult novel "Zihron Devarim" into an intricate portrait of three disaffected Tel Aviv men and the city they call home.
Compulsive womanizer Cesar (Assi Dayan, the actor son of Israeli Defense Minster Moshe Dayan), inertia-bound pianist Israel (Amos Schub), and mamma's boy Goldman (Gitai) share friendship, fading youth and diminishing expectations. But when Goldman's father dies, their stagnant lives begin to transform. Israel is seduced by Ella, Cesar's lover and muse. Cesar clumsily reaches back into the relationship debris behind him in search of a meaningful connection. Goldman trades his suffocating family responsibilities for a wander through Tel Aviv's hot summer night. Whether paralyzed by self-doubt or giving in to self-indulgent hedonism, each man confronts a freedom they are not sure how to use.
Working for the first time with cinematographer Renato Berta, who often collaborated with Louis Malle and Jean-Luc Godard, Amos Gitai languorously chronicles the light, space and heat of Tel Aviv in sensuous long takes. Devarim's objective character detail and organically evolving narrative became the template for Gitai's subsequent City Trilogy films. A sharply drawn, moody portrait of Israel's "lost generation," Devarim seductively illustrates, as Cesar says, that in contemporary Tel Aviv, as in any modern city, "life's a bitch, but it's mesmerizing."