Daniel Burman’s latest film, “All In,” has been making its way around the Jewish film festival circuit since its release last year in Argentina but has yet to find an American distributor.
It isn’t as accomplished or as inventive as “Lost Embrace,” “Family Law” or “Empty Nest,” Burman’s three most recent films (omitting “Brother and Sister,” his 2010 film which hasn’t been seen in the U.S. at all). But “All In” is a pleasant family comedy with some of the same nuggets of emotional truth that have made Burman one of the most interesting of contemporary Jewish directors. Happily, the film will be getting an airing on Monday, May 6, and it is well worth a trip to the Upper West Side.
As an unconventional rabbi explains to the film’s protagonist, Uriel Cohen (Jorge Drexler), in Judaism luck — mazal — is something you create for yourself with the perfect combination of makor, the right place, z’man, the right time and limud, study. “Your luck is in your own hands,” he concludes, repeating the film’s original title, “La suerte in tus manos.”
That is an apt piece of advice for Uriel. As a financial services executive and semi-professional poker player, he has always manufactured his own luck. And as a compulsive liar he has usually fashioned his own version of the world, so much so that his business associates and his two pre-adolescent kids have resigned themselves to his mostly harmless fabrications. We never are told why his first marriage failed, but it’s likely that it came down to those fabrications.
Now, however, he has reconnected with an old flame, Gloria (Valeria Bertuccelli), and he wants this relationship to work. So despite a vasectomy and his multiple versions of reality, he is trying really hard to combine truth with luck. Not so hard that he relies exclusively on either, but there wouldn’t be any comedy if Uriel didn’t still bend reality to fit his needs occasionally.
In between, he consults with his urologist Rafael (Salo Pasik), who functions almost as his shrink.
The result is a film that retains many of the pleasures of Burman’s recent work, but whose fragile architecture relies too much on plot twists. In his three previous films mentioned earlier, Burman had been moving away from such conventional plot structures to focus on the rhythms of ordinary life and events. The humor of those three excellent works grew out of their characters and the the charms of Burman’s actors, particularly longtime collaborators Daniel Hendler and Arturo Goetz. “All In” feels more contrived, more sitcom-like, but in its calmest and most serious moments, often focused on the mixed joy and sorrow of excavating the past, it too breaks through to the emotional truthfulness of his best work. Lucky for us.
“All In” will be shown at the JCC in Manhattan (Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street) on Monday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. For information, call (646) 505-4444 or go to www.jccmanhattan.org/film.