The transnational and the transformative: Haim Tabakman’s Eyes Wide Open and the shifting profile of French cinema in the 21st century
At face value, Haim Tabakman’s Einayim Petukhoth (2009)—also marketed as Eyes Wide Open and Tu n’aimeras point —would seem to have little do with French cinema. One might ask what exactly is French about a film entirely in Hebrew, directed by an Israeli, featuring an Israeli cast and set in the ultra-Orthodox community of Jerusalem. Yet a brief internet search shows that Tabakman’s film is most often described as a French-Israeli or French-Israeli-German film. It is one of an increasing number of international coproductions which underline the importance of the transnational to French cinema, a concept which to date has largely been examined in terms of the French industry’s relation to Hollywood or to postcolonial cinemas. This paper, however, will ask what the transnational might mean when Hollywood and the postcolonial are not in the frame. Three kinds of “trans” will be relevant to the discussion. The first is how the transnational has come to be read in critical writing on the very specific case of French cinema. The second is translation, namely, how this film manages to cross the immediate context of its production to reach a wider audience. The third is the transformative. This will consist of a close reading of Eyes Wide Open, a film which follows several months in the life of Aaron, a kosher butcher and religious family man living in the Orthodox community of Mea Shearim. On the day Aaron reopens the family butcher’s shop following the death of his father, a young student Ezri arrives on his doorstep. In the course of the months to follow, the lives of both are transformed as an unlikely sexual relationship develops between them. In reading this film in relation to both Hollywood and European genres, it will be argued that the film itself might have something to teach us about the French transnational through the themes explored of claustrophobia and openness and of hospitality and hostility.
Joe Hardwick is a lecturer in French in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland. His current research focuses on le jeune cinéma français of the 1990s and 2000s and on French cinematic love-triangles involving gay or bisexual male characters.