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One Way Ticket to 'Munich'?

December 15, 2005 By:
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Deciding on "Munich": Israeli Gen. Harari (Moshe Ivgy, left), Gen. Zamir (Ami Weinberg) and Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen)
Steven Spielberg is as secretive about "Munich" as if he were a Mossad agent.

He isn't, of course.

But what he is is the world's most famous producer/director whose movie of "Munich," due to open nationally Dec. 23, has already topped many an Oscar contender list - before any critics had even seen it.

Such is the E.T. - extra-talented - world that is Spielberg's.

Why the hush-hush on this huge film about the aftermath of the 1972 Israeli Olympian massacre by Arab terrorists and the response by the Mossad?

No press junkets, no widespread advance interviews, no promotional screenings - no-nonsense Spielberg is building as much mystery about "Munich" as surrounded that tragedy's own aftermath.

"He wants everybody not to have preconceptions, to see the movie and make up their own minds," according to Marvin Levy, who has represented the multiple-Oscar winning director for years.

Levy added in his talk to the Los Angeles Times: "When people see the film, then it could become a different matter."

What matters most, it seems, is that the film is no hip-hip-hooray for Eretz Yisrael; that the colors being rung up alongside the blue and white are crimson and blood red.

A longtime supporter of Jewish causes - and the mover and shaker behind the Shoah Project, an extraordinary oral history of Holocaust survivors, as well as the maker of "Schindler's List" - Spielberg has been known as a friend to Israel with reel Jewish roots and concerns.

However, even some of Israel's best friends take pot shots at the country. After all, what are friends for?

Not that "Munich" is ammunition for enemies. But, according to reports, the film takes a sobering and far from soft point of view on the way the Mossad - Israel's chief intelligence agency - handled the horrors of the massacres post-Munich. Of how they hunted down and killed one by one the terrorists who took part in the games forever to be besmirched as "the Munich Olympics" - and how just some of their machinations meant their own nightmares years later.

No News is Good News?
Filmed in Malta, Hungary, France and New York, this was not the "shoot heard 'round the world"; indeed, chatter on the making of the movie was minimal and maxed-out with conjecture.

Is it a case of "no news is good news," or is silence a noose around the hopes of those anticipating a positive portrayal?

Give peace a chance: "I don't think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today," Spielberg said to Time magazine in an exclusive cover story.

"But it's worth a try. Somewhere inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. The biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence."

An Isolated Israel?
When push comes to shove, truth, of course, stands on its own; but will Israel be left standing even more isolated than it is now once Spielberg's "Munich" mission unreels worldwide?

The controversy was only fueled by a statement released by the director earlier this year: "Viewing Israel's response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms.

"By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today."

Tragic standoff?

Is this a suggestion of Spielberg's - one of Hollywood's elite left - stand on today's political Mideast mess? Or just an appropriate appraisal shared by many from all sides and perspectives?

One inside source was quoted as saying, "We know there's going to be controversy. We just want to make sure it's informed."

From such comments is speculation sparked. But, ultimately, is this good for the Jews? Or will the Jewish Community Relations Councils of the world be smacking themselves on their collective heads after the film's release, feeling that Israel's image has been made sport of in "Munich"?

According to the Times, opinion-makers will get a chance to form their considerations before the opening, with the Council on Foreign Relations and Foreign Policy magazine scheduled for screenings of their own.

It should be noted that Spielberg, says the Times, has hired some heavy-hitting public-relations types to help ease the film's way into the official Jewish community.

Did they help him with this statement to Time? Screenwriter "Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film. We don't demonize our targets. They're individuals. They have families."

We are the world?

Kushner's stance on Israel in the past - as a nation on a morally misguided mission - must have the Israeli lobby in this country looking for some chairs to collapse in.

Angels in America, but demons in the Mideast?

And as for others who are inclined to want some word on what's happening, Spielberg is suspiciously mute.

Which means that maybe he should open the lines of communication by taking advice from his own movie mantra:

Steven - call home!

 

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