I don't want to cause any trouble here, but the wrong movie took home the Academy Award for best foreign-language film last month. As fine and complex as A Separation is, the Iranian Oscar winner doesn't achieve anywhere near the levels of psychological depth and emotional punch of its fellow nominee, Footnote. From Israel, this remarkable work, written and directed by Joseph Cedar, chronicles the epic rivalry between a father and son, both Talmudic scholars, and the twisted knots of ego, anger, loyalty, and loathing that bind them together, and tear them apart.
If you doubt that a film set in the world of religious scholarship can pack such a wallop - it's suspenseful, funny, crushing, heartbreaking - doubt not. Moving at a breakneck, action-style pace, Footnote lulls us into laughter at the same time it deconstructs the brutal relationship between a self-obsessed intellectual and his considerably more socially adept and grounded son. Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba) is a sour, eccentric professor who has devoted his life to a singularly focused study of the Talmudic texts. His work may be brilliant, but it has failed to gain the recognition he feels he deserves.