|Ohad Knoller, Oz Zehavi
Ten years ago, Eytan Foxâs Yossi and Jagger told a heartbreaking queer love story between two male soldiers in the Israeli military. Now, with Yossi, the openly gay Fox offers a sequel to his 2002 classic. Familiarity with the original film is not essential for seeing the sequel; the backstory unfolds and makes sense for viewers who donât know or donât remember how the first film ended.
In this new drama, Yossi (Ohad Knoller, reprising his role in an excellent performance) is a cardiologist who jerks off to porn, eats bad take-out, and uses old photos of himself to pick up guys on the net. When he is forced by circumstances to take a vacation, Yossi unexpectedly meets Tom (Oz Zehavi), a young, handsome, and openly gay soldier. A potential romance develops.
Fox admitted in a phone interview from Israel that he never thought he would make a sequel to Yossi and Jagger, but he is pleased that he did.
âIâm so proud of this filmâitâs so personal, and I feel so close to it. Part of why I made this was an excuse to explore what happened to Yossi, which is what happened to me, to Israel, and to the gay community over the past ten years.â
The filmmaker gives the example of how the Israeli army has been more accepting and tolerant of queer soldiers as one dramatic change in the decade since Yossi and Jagger. He observed, âWhen I was in the Israeli army in 1982, the idea of being openly gay was unheard of. All the people I know who were gay in the army were completely closeted. That world has changed.â
Yossi explores the idea that the main character is stuck in the past and has a closeted mindset. When Yossi meets Tom, he slowly begins to understand that there are other ways to live as a gay man.
Fox emphasized, âTom represents the idea that you can be happy with who you are. You can take your clothes off, stand there naked, and say, âThis is who I amâlove me!ââ Thatâs what the attractive Zehavi does in one of the filmâs key scenes.
That said, Tom is not out to his family, a complexity Fox found interesting about contemporary queer youth in Israel, and one he incorporated into the film.
âYoung hipsters and actors tell me that being gay is a non-issue. And I say, âOK, I get it. Itâs much easier now, thatâs true. Tel Aviv and the world are much more accepting.â But they have problematic relationships with their parents. Telling their parents, âThis is who I am,â is difficult for them.â
The relationship between the heavyset and heavy-hearted Yossi and the younger, cuter Tom forms the filmâs romantic second act, and Fox said his purpose here was âto show the older generation reaching out the younger generation to teach them how to live better.â
He continued, indicating his dismay that audiences questionâas the bewildered Yossi doesâwhy Tom is attracted to a sad, lonely, older man.
âIâm almost offended that a young beautiful man canât fall for a somber, sophisticated older guy. Thatâs the wrong way to see desire. Tom sees that Yossi can offer him more than his fun friends can. Heâs a doctor who is smart and reads literature and needs saving. Thatâs something Tom wants to doâsave someone who is in distress.â
Distress in a relationship is something Fox, Knoller, and the filmâs screenwriter, Itay Segal, all knew firsthand while making the film. Knoller, who is straight, went through a divorce between Yossi films, while Segal, who is gay, broke up with his boyfriend and was mourning his relationship. Similarly, Fox was having a crisis with his partner of 23 years, Gal Uchovsky. (The pair ended their professional relationship after the 2006 film, The Bubble).
The loneliness Fox faced during this period informed the film. âLiving in an empty apartment, eating bad take-out food, watching a lot of porn, falling asleep in front of boring TV and waking up to another day of loneliness [as Yossi does] wasnât difficult for me to relate/connect to,â he confessed.
âOhad and I spoke a lot about the whole feeling of being alone and the fear and confusion that comes with that, and the questions of what being alone brings to your heart and mind. We shared those feelings. Plus, Itay and I were exposed to the new gay world of Internet dating.â
One of the more interesting scenes early in the film has Yossi meeting a man online for sex, only to have the encounter go badly because of Yossiâs poor physical image and poorer self-image.
Several of the characters in Yossiâfrom his hospital colleague Moti (Lior Ashkenazi) as well as Tomâsuggest that Yossi would feel better if he would just get laid. Itâs a facile curative for a depressed man grappling with survivorâs guilt, and being mostly closeted, but the film emphasizes Yossi finding sexual fulfillment as a means to emotional happiness.
âI didnât think of it that way,â Fox responded to the claim, âbut he does need to get laid to feel better about himself and life.â
The filmmaker then emphasized the real point he wanted to make with his film. âI wanted to show a person stuck in a bad place who frees himself. Sometimes itâs connected to moving, going in a new direction, or to new places. Changing new things in your lifeâthe scenery, the city you live inâwhich for Yossi is claustrophobicâand going to the desert and meeting new people.â
Now the question that arises is will Fox make a sequel to Yossi in 10 years? The filmmaker laughed and answered, âThat might be another exercise--to see what happened to Tom in 10 years!â
Â© 2013 Gary M. Kramer