Dir. Erez Laufer. Israel/France. 2002. 101mins.
A natural for French markets, this account of the meteoric rise and fatal crash of Israeli performer Mike Brant, who became one of Paris's shiniest stars in the early 1970s, is more than a nostalgia piece. Instead it plays as a cautionary tale about a young man insufficiently mature to handle the frenzy of showbusiness, ultimately conceding defeat by jumping to his death from his Paris penthouse in April 1975. Although theatrical prospects look dim and judicous cropping is required in the first half, it is likely to receive a good reception on TV and ancillary markets in Francophone territories. The film won best documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival last year.
The son of Romanian immigrants in Haifa, Mike Brant (born Moshe Brand) was denied the showbiz break typical for most Israelis of his generation via a spot in an Army concert party. Nursing the rejection for the rest of his life, he finally secured a job as a singer with a folk group, the Carmon Dancers. While on tour with them in Tehran (when the Shah was in power) he met Sylvie Vartan, a rising French pop star, who suggested he should come to Paris (although she subsequently had nothing to do with his career).
In France he rode the pop charts for five years, most famously with his first record Laisse-Moi T'aimer. But at the same time he floundered, not only when it came to managing his career but also in dealing with his finances. Out of his depth, afraid of being found out, and, as he tells one interviewer during the film, unable to grasp the secret of his success and terrified of commitments he would be unable to fulfil, he tried to kill himself in a Geneva hotel by jumping out of a fifth floor window. Despite being in need of urgent treatment, he was dragged back to Paris to complete the recording of a new album, but killed himself before he was able to do so.
Whether Brant's death was suicide, as the inquest decided, or a crime, as his Israeli friends maintain, his story amounts to more than another showbiz saga. It takes the picture a good 20 minutes to find its legs, but when it does Laufer pulls together, through clips from live shows and interviews with friends and associates, a portrait of a talented but isolated young man surrounded by sharks who took advantage of him.
At various points Laufer suggests that the cause of Brant's death is still unresolved. However, as he points out, Brant habitually abandoned other people because he was afraid that they would eventually leave him: did he do the same with his own life when he decided that it, too, was becoming too difficult to control'
Prod cos: Erez Laufer Films, Fabienne Servan-Schreiber Cineteve, INA France
Int'l sales: Cinephil Tel Aviv
Prods: Dalia Migdal, Boaz Pfeiffer, Erez Laufer