Foxtrot begins and ends with a sustained shot of a truck rattling down a dusty desert road. But nearly everything that happens in between upends any conventional idea of what a movie is supposed to be, in the astonishing ways that it bends and swerves and seems to invent an entirely new way of seeing and storytelling at each turn.
A winner of eight Ophirs (Israel’s Oscar) and the Grand Jury Prize at Venice, filmmaker Samuel Maoz’s startling drama opens on an ordinary day in a bourgeois couple’s gorgeous, light- filled Tel Aviv apartment when the doorbell buzzes with terrible news: Their son is dead, killed in the line of duty. Dafna (Sarah Adler) drops to the floor and is quickly shuffled away to be tranquilized. Michael (Lior Ashkenazi), at first, hardly reacts; stocky and silver-bearded, he looks like a handsome woodchuck. His energy, though, is palpably coiled — a grenade aimed inward, even while he calmly makes the necessary plans and arrangements.
And then, just as it seems to be circling an insular, mildly subversive portrait of grief and its aftermath, the narrative jackknifes. What follows comes in two distinct acts, though to add much more would ruin the revela- tions due. It’s easier to talk about the countless small moments Maoz (Lebanon) captures with such stark, startling clarity: the blank serenity of Michael’s elderly mother, her forearm tattooed with a telltale row of faded numbers; the skittish, wet-eyed devotion of the family dog; the deadpan absurdity of a camel strolling leisurely through a remote checkpoint (somehow, even the four- legged acting here is fantastic). Foxtrot is a hard-knot puzzle box of a movie, jolting and strange. But it feels like what art and life are supposed to do; it changes you. A