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VENICE 2018 Orizzonti

Review: Stripped

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- VENICE 2018: Following the Oscar-nominated Ajami, which he co-directed, Yaron Shani brings the first part of his upcoming “Love Trilogy” to Orizzonti, significantly raising the bar

Review: Stripped

If we overlook the hilariously flashy titles that seem to have more to do with a certain trilogy about Christian Grey and his immaculate chamber of torture than with festival-friendly fare, Yaron Shani’s “The Love Trilogy”, comprising Stripped [+see also:
trailer
interview: Yaron Shani
film profile
]
Reborn and Chained (the last two currently in post-production), might eventually turn out to be quite an interesting proposition. If the first part, fresh from its premiere in the Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti, is any indication at all, the Israeli director proves there is still life in the familiar-sounding attempt to “blend reality and fiction”, and actually even decides to digitally blur intimate body parts and some faces. Granted, his desire to explore gender violence means that none of them will be an easy watch. But then again, neither was a certain trilogy about Christian Grey.

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While certainly a bit dark, Stripped is also smart and surprising, although such words may come off as lacklustre praise, given that the film focuses mostly on human emotions. Emotions which, when stifled, can only cause more harm, as a 30-year-old writer, experiencing her first real success thanks to a novel full of “bold descriptions of sex” (and a nude drawing workshop, apparently), and a young musician are about to find out. Without spelling things out, Shani keeps you guessing and, it has to be said, increasingly nervous. It’s a film with a real delayed ignition, but when it finally explodes, the outcome feels heartbreakingly real.

With an older main character and the other observing her from his window, slowly nurturing an obsession that only gets stronger after they get together to talk about a possible project, at times it feels a bit like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s A Short Film About Love. Shani doesn’t have any qualms about how messy sex and love can get, wonderfully capturing the confusion of a boy who is talking openly about nurse-themed porn with his friends, yet who is way too afraid to kiss a girl. And while there is no escaping a few silly scenes (nobody, however troubled, should ever play guitar naked), and Laliv Sivan and Bar Gottfried inhabit their roles with the kind of dedication that is bound to make some viewers uncomfortable, for the most part Stripped works rather well – not to mention that it includes the saddest take on Risky Business this writer has ever seen.

“I am trying to go to the far end of authenticity, taking the traditional approaches of realism to the extreme without sacrificing the intimacy and intensity of fiction,” admitted the director, who actually asked the actors to become their characters and live their lives for the entire duration of the shoot. “The emotions in Stripped are genuine, not acted. They are a result of real experiences, and in many respects, the characters are a reflection of the actors’ personalities and backgrounds.” And as such, it’s quite difficult to shake them off. 

Written and directed by Yaron Shani, Stripped was produced by Saar Yogev and Naomi Levari, of Israel’s Black Sheep Film Productions, and co-produced by Michael Reuter, of German outfit The Post Republic. It was made with the support of Yes, the Israel Film FundZDF/Das Kleine Fernsehspiel and ARTE.

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