October 2, 2003
A Roll in the Snow
The central theme of "Yossi & Jagger" is a love affair between two gay Israeli officers, but -- straights please note -- the film's impact goes well beyond the sexual motif.
Seldom has the boredom, tension and camaraderie of men and women at war been portrayed more realistically and economically than in this film, which has been a surprise hit among Israeli moviegoers, soldiers and civilians.
Strikingly, the film takes place not in Israel's hot, humid coastal plane, but entirely on a freezing, snow-covered mountaintop on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where a small IDF unit mans an isolated outpost against unseen infiltrators and terrorists.
Commander of the unit is Yossi (Ohad Knoller), a career soldier. His lieutenant is Jagger, so nicknamed because his buddies see in him the aura of a rock star. Jagger is played by Yehuda Levi, billed as the "Israeli Tom Cruise" and the nation's number-one heartthrob.
Carrying on their secret affair in the macho and privacy-deprived confines of their platoon, Yossi and Jagger are limited to an emotional -- but sensitively depicted -- roll in the snow.
The situation is complicated by the arrival of a colonel, accompanied by two attractive female communication operators, one of whom falls hopelessly in love with Jagger.
The overbearing colonel (Sharon Reginiano) pulls his rank for sex with the other girl and to send the exhausted soldiers on a night ambush, despite Yossi's protests.
Director Eytan Fox, who said the film was based on an actual incident, made "Yossi & Jagger" for an astonishingly low $200,000, barely enough to pay for a wrap party at a Hollywood studio.
Fox is a native of New York City and joins other American-born directors who have created some of the most challenging films to come out of Israel, including Joseph Cedar's "Time of Favor" and, currently, "The Holy Land" by Eitan Gorlin.
"Yossi & Jagger" opens Oct. 24 at the Laemmle Fairfax Cinema in Los Angeles (323) 655-4010 and the Town Center in Encino (818) 981-9811. For more about the film, visit www.yossiandjagger.com. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor