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In Sublet, World-Changing Contradictions

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John Benjamin Hickey and Niv Nissim in Sublet. (Greenwich Entertainment/Trailer image via YouTube) Eytan Fox explores Platonic and political sophistication.

Sublet starts out as an “It’s not your world anymore” movie in which 56-year-old director Eytan Fox observes the distance felt between a cautious, mature man sensitive to mortality and a freewheeling youth living the recklessness of modern times. Fox then reveals what they have in common. It’s a double character study that penetrates superficial social and political differences.

John Benjamin Hickey plays Michael, a New York Times travel writer who escapes complications back home by going to Israel, pretending to do research for an article. Theater actor Hickey is the first actor to put a perfectly proper, bespectacled white male Times wuss — a definite cultural type — on the screen. His meek, inconspicuous white-collar clerk’s wardrobe suggests a Graham Greene hypocrite. Michael feigns resourcefulness and courage and is rattled by the domestic mess that resulted from his and his husband’s fashionable attempt at child adoption. Meeting Tomer (Niv Nissim) — a dark-haired, sexually adventurous filmmaker of the next generation — whose Tel Aviv apartment he sublets, puts Michael in touch with feelings that he, through imperious class privilege, has disconnected.

It’s not so simple as rediscovering ethnic heritage or sex. Michael is forced to learn about his human obligations. He asks Tomer, “What kind of movie do you want to make in the future?” And Tomer answers, “Why the future? I’m already making them! Romantic horror! Punch audiences in the face! I think cinema should physically shake you up like a roller coaster.”

Michael’s careerist question implies the snootiness of the wary and defensive professional class. He tells Tomer, “When I was your age, we did everything we could to change the world.”

But Tomer mocks him: “It’s not a question of right or wrong. Not all of us likes cheesy romance and happy endings.” This movie talk is not just Millennial snark; it’s existential. The apartment’s Funny Games and Holy Motors posters suggest artistic confusion passing for hipness. Tomer’s cynicism complements Michael’s lost

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