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Israeli-US film history is front and center in ‘The Ambassador’

CM 29/08/2021


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A unique piece of Israeli-American cinema history unspooled at the Cannon Group tribute at the Jerusalem Film Festival, hosted and programmed by Quentin Tarantino, on Friday, when the 1984 movie, The Ambassador, which is about the peace process, was shown.
This movie, directed by J. Lee Thompson, one of Tarantino’s favorite directors, has probably not been shown on the big screen here since its release over three decades ago, but it proved to be riveting viewing, on several levels. First, it combines a thriller filled with sex and violence with an earnest story about the peace process, surely the only Hollywood movie ever to attempt this. It stars Robert Mitchum as Peter Hacker, the US ambassador to Israel, who is usually accompanied by the embassy security chief, Frank (Rock Hudson), as he sets up meetings with members of the PLO to try to get direct negotiations going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which makes the Israeli government nervous.
The movie is loosely based on the Elmore Leonard novel, 52 Pickup, about a businessman who is blackmailed and Hacker is a very undiplomatic straight talker. Hacker’s wife, Alex (Ellen Burstyn, the star of The Exorcist), feels neglected by her husband’s devotion to world peace and is having an affair with a Palestinian antiques dealer in the Old City of Jerusalem who turns out to be an important PLO official.

Frank knows about this and has been secretly filming Alex’s trysts in graphic detail. The film he shoots gets stolen by the Mossad and falls into the hands of blackmailers.
And then it gets complicated.
Mitchum, best known for his chilling portrayal of psychos in such films as The Night of the Hunter and the original Cape Fear, which was also directed by Thompson, was struggling with alcoholism and it was reportedly a difficult shoot. Hudson had AIDS and although he looks a bit thin in some scenes, he is as handsome as ever in his final feature film. Burstyn has some nude scenes and gets the best lines, at one point saying, “This isn’t the holy land, it’s the holier-than-thou land.”
Unlike so many films, which use a few establishing shots from Israel but are made somewhere else, the movie was shot on location in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Negev, which gives the scenes local color and authenticity. The Jerusalem Post can be glimpsed atop the desks of both the ambassador and the Israeli defense minister (Donald Pleasence, who played Blofeld in You Only Live Twice). In a very strange scene, the defense minister chooses Yad Vashem for a conversation about the compromising film and graphic Holocaust photos are shown in close-up.
The supporting cast is a Who’s Who of Israeli actors, many of whom are big stars today. Uri Gavriel (currently appearing in Hit & Run), Sasson Gabay (The Band’s Visit) and Moshe Ivgy all play Arab students and terrorists.
Sasson Gabay in THE BAND'S VISIT, photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade 2018. (credit: EVAN ZIMMERMAN)Sasson Gabay in THE BAND’S VISIT, photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade 2018. (credit: EVAN ZIMMERMAN)
Singer Shmulik Kraus portrays a brooding assassin who comes from abroad to take out the ambassador. Chelli Goldenberg plays a dogged journalist, while Michal Bat-Adam, is involved in the theft of the film of the ambassador’s wife. Yosef Shiloach (The Policeman) and Zachi Noy (Lemon Popsicle/Eskimo Limon) are blackmailers, while another Eskimo Limon star, Yftach Katzur, plays a Jewish student.
In spite of the melodramatic plot, the message that the peace process is urgently needed comes through loud and clear. “I haven’t got that much time and neither has this country of yours,” Hacker says at the end.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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