How do you top a Castro summer that
has given us sing-along Grease, The Sound of Music and The Littlest
Mermaid? Israeli filmmaker, man of all genres, Eytan Fox has an answer:
beginning tomorrow you will thrill to the sight of a skinny boy/drag diva, Ido
Rosenberg, introducing an ABBA worthy musical melodrama that features a pop
“My mother was always a fan of Svika
Pick, ever since she was a child. Throughout her modest life, one with few
sprinkles and a lot of dust, his music became the melody of her dreams.”
Because it’s hard to sing-along to
even the most insidiously infectious tunes with Hebrew lyrics, here we offer
you an exclusive cheat sheet to the movie Mary Lou’s opening act, title
“Always the same dream, a dream
called Mary Lou. So where are you now? Tell me, Mary Lou. She fools around
behind fake lights, still shining bright. One day she might change, Mary Lou.
So where are you now? Tell me, Mary Lou.”
What begins as a candy colored sugar
rush with an impossibly precocious ten-year-old boy embracing his beautiful if
emotionally fragile mom’s love for the music of 70’s Israeli pop star Svika
Pick turns dark and moody as that boy becomes a young man desperate to
fabricate a soothing myth to explain mom’s abrupt disappearance to follow her
dream. Following a bizarre high school musical humiliation, Meir (Ido
Rosenberg) runs off to Tel Aviv to join a family of drag performers while
experiencing the whiplash and heartache of an assortment of failed stabs at
love. From, Eytan Fox, the acclaimed director of Walk on Water, The Bubble and
Yossi & Jagger, this flashy but solidly grounded survey of modern
Israeli gay life reveals the price a talented young drag star must pay to turn
his mom’s delusions into the basis for a satisfying grownup queer life.
Calling Tel Aviv requires radically
resetting my internal bio-clock: 8 am in the morning is 10 at night hereabouts.
After a lot of digits dialed a jovial Eytan Fox calmly addresses my queries
about who the hell is this Svika Pick? And what gives with Mary Lou?
“I don’t know what the
American equivalent of Svika Pick would be, he started as the lead in the
Israeli version of Hair in the sixties, which, of course, for Israel the
whole concept of Hair the musical was outrageous because Israel in the
sixties was so conservative.
“Pick started his career as
the writer of what eventually became Israeli pop/rock hits. My generation grew
up on his music – the first time I ever danced with a girl was to Svika Pick
tunes. Like ABBA he’s been having these endless comebacks, every few years. The
Israeli National Theatre wanted to ride the current idea of taking songs by the
same artist – like Mama Mia, the big ABBA song – and turn them into a
successful musical. Everyone was very critical of that: how can our national
theatre that’s suppose to do Shakespeare and Chekhov deal with a musical with
silly Svika Pick music.
Lamble: Why does Meryl Streep do Abba?
Fox: It turned out to be their biggest hit ever –
people who never go to the theatre came to see this. While the play was
enjoyable the story was terrible. Three years later I was contacted by
Israeli’s biggest cable channel, Hot – they really do the best stuff in Israel:
remember the HBO series In Treatment? Hot started it and franchised it
all over the world, even Russia has its version.
They bought the rights to Pick’s
music, only, and decided to create a musical mini-series. As opposed to the
very heterosexual play, Hot commissioned a great adaptation – I’ve never read
such beautiful screenplays – I was so happy I thought this could have been me
writing this, these are themes I’ve been dealing with throughout my career. If
you asked me my one dream, I’d say give me a big budget (by American standards,
it’s pennies) to make a musical.
Lamble: I love your lead, Ido Rosenberg. I thought,
while watching it at the Castro, if this guy’s multilingual he could be an
international star. He’s got charisma, acting chops, the whole package.
Fox: He’s a great guy, he hasn’t been doing a lot of
film in Israel. One of the reasons is that in Israeli film and television the
male characters are, how would I put it? Traditional Israeli men: you can see
their army service written on their foreheads.
Lamble: Kind of hyper macho?
Fox: He’s been going to all these auditions and he’s
not that character, obviously. He’s more sophisticated, some would say more
Lamble: I wouldn’t say he’s effeminate. I think he
has a kind of androgynous charisma but I think he walks the masculine/feminine
fence very nicely. Like Germany’s Daniel Bruhl he has the possibility of
Fox: I met him when he just finished acting school,
around the time of my film, The Bubble and I was considering him as one
of the leads.
Lamble: How are you and your longtime boyfriend Gal Uchovsky
doing these days?
Fox: How do you say, hanging in there. A week ago we
celebrated twenty-two years. It needs a lot of maintenance. We’ve decided not
make films together anymore, we’ve decided that living together, having a
family together and making films together is a little too much. We’ve decided
to stay together as a couple, a family and make films separately. So Mary
Lou is actually the first film I’ve done on my own, without Gal. He’s
become like a star in Israeli television: he has all these talk shows -- he
used to a judge on Israeli Idol until he quit last season after five
seasons. He’s developing an Israeli Glee for Israeli TV.