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Yossi and Jagger

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD

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In the American military, they beat you to death if you're gay and rape you if you're a woman. But Israeli military life is far more integrated and safe: Men and women -- openly gay and straight -- serve together, party together and, of course, make love together, sometimes in a tent, with the other guys minding their own business outside, and sometimes in the snow on a two-man reconnaissance mission the afternoon before a dangerous night ambush. Maybe that's why the Israelis took only six days to win a war, and we took a decade to lose one.

 

The titular lovers in director Eytan Fox's fleet 2002 drama, Yossi and Jagger, are both men: the former (Ohad Knoller) a taciturn young commander at an outpost in the snowy mountains between Israel and Lebanon, and the latter (Yehuda Levi) his spirited, dreamy-eyed second in command, who strums a guitar and dances gaily to sappy pop music (they call him "Jagger" because he acts like a rock star).

 

Still, gay-positive policies aside, boys will be boys, and policies can't diminish internalized homophobia. In the mess hall, when the guys start ragging on swishy Tel Aviv waiters, Jagger asks them what they'd do if they learned he was gay. Everyone laughs heartily, and Jagger tousles his buddy's hair the way homoerotic men at war traditionally do. The dozen men in the company don't know about their leaders' clandestine and furtive affair, nor do the two female soldiers, one of whom has a crush on Jagger because he's manly yet sensitive. ("There's something different about him," she tells Yossi, seeking courtship advice.) Yossi plans to keep his sexuality under cover for a long, long time. But Jagger is a dreamer, and when his military service ends, he intends to come out and then welcome his beloved Yossi into the family.

 

This premise could easily sustain a whole movie, if surely a contrived and by now familiar one. But Fox tell his story in 65 minutes and sets it over the course of one day during a war, so you can pretty much guess what will happen. Yossi and Jagger offers no surprises and very little sense of conflict or reality: not in its setting, not in its climax, and not in the scrubbed romantic tenderness between the boys during their one discreet "love scene." (Fox photographs Jagger eating a creamy dessert as if it were an erotic revelation.)

 

"What if I die and you haven't even told me you love me?" asks Jagger -- who's such a girl -- a few hours before the mission. "What if I die because you decided to be a nudnik instead of going over the plans?" replies his edgy boyfriend, who doesn't like it when Jagger acts "too queer." How rewarding it would have been to see these men work things out, or not, if only to have a good dramatic training film for our own macho military. In Hebrew, with subtitles Two and a half

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