16 April 2012

All Is Full Of Love

The Heymann brothers in the 1970s. Tomer is bottom center looking a bit shirty.

"Falling in love with the Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann would be the most effortless, natural thing in the world. And not necessarily because the fortysomething documentarian is a total hottie."

I recited this--my Israeli film story lead--to my boyfriend recently. Then the realization struck: "It's totally homolicious, isn't it?" My boyfriend allowed that, though he wasn't by any means an expert on what was and wasn't homolicious, it did really seem that way to him, yes.

Well, homolicious is obviously fine with me, but it wasn't intentional. Yes, I interrogated myself about referring to Tomer's looks. Was it necessary? Was it just cheap titillation? Was it heterosexist? (But I realize I would have mentioned a heterosexual filmmaker's hotness. And I'm afraid titillation is a profound and necessary aspect of the human condition.)

What I wanted to convey with my lead, though, was how what I was really picking up on from Tomer's films is that the whole point is love. If you wonder what I mean, there's an amazingly beautiful scene in which he tells his niece Noga goodbye in The Queen Has No Crown. And, I mean, there are several other instances. His films are littered with them: the entirety of It Kinda Scares Me, for example. In his debut film, he is giving and chilled out in his work with a pack of post-adolescent boys to the point that I--seven years after my experience of working with middle school girls--find just this side of superhuman.

Interviewing Tomer and others for this story and, actually very much, the transcription process has had a tremendous impact  on me. Spending hours listening to the way people actually talk and phrase things is a goldmine since a lot of my novel's explication comes through characters' conversations with each other. But more than that, this process has brought home to me the way that art can put you on the edge in a very important way, the way it can push you to your next level.

Right now Tomer is working on a film about Israel's choreographic superstar and Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin. I asked him what gave him the idea to do a film about Batsheva, and he told me about seeing the piece "Kyr" in the early 1990s: "It was an unbelievable experience for me. It's like something, you know, opened me. I remember myself [feeling] so high after the show with so many images and colors and feelings."

So, I think I get it. Again, the point is love. That can take so many different forms--and the variations of human experience are really quite beautiful and, in fact, humbling to witness. It's a gift. Of his first exposure to Batsheva, Tomer told me: "You know, it changed me. There are not so many times in life art can be...so big an influence or inspiration with all your life--personal life and creation life." Yeah, I know what you mean, homie.

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