Yossi & Jagger is a tragic love story set in a most unlikely place: an Israeli army camp. Directed by Eytan Fox from a screenplay by Avner Bernheimer, Yossi & Jagger is what the much more publicized, more elaborate, more expensive, and ultimately inferior Brokeback Mountain is supposed to be: A subversive film (not surprisingly, the Israeli army refused to give any assistance to the filmmakers) that shows soldiers, whether male or female, who seem as eager to fight a war as they are to, say, kneel over and vomit, and gay men as – are you ready? – real people whose on-screen rapport feels wholly believable.
Running a little over one hour, Yossi & Jagger doesn’t have enough time to fully develop the love affair between the carefree soldier Lior (soap opera star Yehuda Levi), nicknamed Jagger because he exudes the charisma of a rock star, and the more uptight, deeply closeted army officer Yossi (Tribeca Film Festival co-winner Ohad Knoller). That shortcoming, however, is more than compensated for by the great chemistry between Levi and Knoller, and by Bernheimer’s straightforward depiction of young lives wasted in an environment of permanent warfare.
The film’s final scene, despite the inappropriate pop tune played in the background, is as touching as the final moment in Brokeback Mountain. (Addendum: I’ve since become used the pop tune, “Your Soul” by Rita – which no longer feels “inappropriate.” Also, I should mention that the lyrics, as sung by Ivri Lider, have been changed in the film so that the song’s lovers are two men instead of a man and a woman.)
Director Fox – best known for his equally humanist international hit Walk on Water – screenwriter Bernheimer, actors Levi and Knoller, and editor Yosef Grunfeld must be given credit for making the predictable seem fresh and for skillfully applying their limited resources to create a work of heartbreaking pathos.
Yossi & Jagger (2002). Dir.: Eytan Fox. Scr.: Avner Bernheimer. Cast: Ohad Knoller, Yehuda Levi, Assi Cohen, Aya Steinovitz, Hani Furstenberg, Sharon Raginiano, Yuval Semo, Yaniv Moyal, Hanan Savyon.