Israeli cinema has finally come up with its own Larry Clark. Similarly bearded and mustachioed, director Jonathan Gurfinkel, with an unrestrained vigor, showcases how secular teens residing in the affluent beachfront suburbs of Tel Aviv are every bit as horny, lonely, self-centered, and destructive as their fresh-faced American cousins grinding up against one other in the likes of Kids and Bully.
Six Acts is divided into six episodes. We first meet 16-year-old Gili (Sivan Levy) after she's transferred to a new high school and is uploading photos of herself onto a local social web site in hopes of making friends. The self-taken shots do gain attention, but not of the right sort. Poor, unstylish, and not attractive enough, Gili seems like an easy plaything to exploit by the "in" boys in town -- and that's exactly what they plan to do.
Tomer (Roy Nik) desires a hand-job, his pal "Why-don’t you-shave-it?" Omri (Eviatar Mor) graduates Gili into oral sex, overweight "loser" Shabat (Niv Zilberberg) takes her a bit further, and eventually Gili will be offered up as a bar mitzvah present, and the abyss still hasn’t been reached.
Perfectly capturing the neediness of a young girl wanting to belong and willing to say "yes" to any offer that might lead to romance and acceptance, the film, with its "based-upon-true-life" screenplay by Rona Segal, doesn't supply enough of a backstory to decimate with its depiction of relentless degradation -- at least as much as it should have. And if you have any doubt that the producers are out for a little exploitation of Six Acts' teen debaucheries, note the tagline on poster is "I know this girl who'll fuck anyone."
Yet the film has been garnering awards internationally, and admittedly the acting, direction, and editing by Arik Lahav-Leibovich are all first rate, but possibly the dispiriting hopelessness of Gili's downward plunge to complete sexual objectification is too predictable from Act One. Predictable, but sadly too believable. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theatre" and "Gay and Lesbian Identity in Literature" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.