It would be hard to imagine a filmmaking style as serious yet lazy as the earnest vérité bobbing and weaving employed by La Petite Jérusalem. Shooting in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, in a concrete housing project known as Little Jerusalem, the writer-director Karin Albou pushes her camera up close to her actors, creating a superficial intimacy, yet there’s no framing or shaping, no perspective. Would it have killed her to organize a master shot? The handheld moodiness implies that something ineffable is going on, but La Petite Jérusalem features the most dated of dilemmas. Laura (Fanny Valette), a tranquil beauty alienated from her Algerian Jewish family, thinks love is a fraud — the enemy of noble thought — and the movie indulges her naïveté as if it were something more than arrested dithering.
Meanwhile, her older sister (Elsa Zylberstein), stuck in a troubled marriage, believes that the Torah forbids women’s sexual pleasure. Her liberation is très 1972, but back then, at least, this movie might have been made in a way that invited you into the personalities of its actors.