Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Ofir Raul Graizer
Screenwriter: Ofir Raul Graizer
Cast: Tim Kalkhof, Sarah Adler, Roy Miller, Zohar Strauss, Sandra Sade
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: June 29 in NY and LA
“The Cakemaker” is a lovely, bittersweet drama that takes place both in a charming café in Berlin and a similar business in Jerusalem with enough differences to give the story its obligatory conflicts. It’s partly a gay romance between a German baker and an Israeli businessman working in a German-Israeli company, involving as well a brief, heterosexual liaison that is so slowly developed that it marks the film as authentic and respectful of its audience. What’s more it could attract a prospective audience interested in baking or just anybody who likes eating cake. This is writer-director Ofir-Raul Graizer’s freshman contribution as a full-length feature (he previously co-directed shorts like “La Discotheque” about a man in a Santiago, Chile strip club who one night reveals his true nature).
Filmed on location in Jerusalem and Berlin, “The Cakemaster” introduces Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli married to Anat (Sarah Adler), the owner of a Jerusalem café, who stops by a cake store for Black Forest cake, a German specialty, finding that his attraction to Thomas (Tim Kalkhof), its owner and baker, is as delicious as the large slice of cream-topped pastry. Without telling his wife, of course, Oren carries on an affair with the cake maker but lets him know that he will never leave his wife and child, Itai (Tamir Ben Yehuda). After getting no response to several phone calls to Oren, now back in Jerusalem, he is told that Oren was killed in an auto accident. Thomas, for reasons of his own, is curious about the widow, travels to a wintry Jerusalem—where the bleak outdoors contrasts with the warm setting of Anat’s establishment—and takes a job with Anat as a dishwasher. When he surprises the slender woman with an assortment of cinnamon cookies like the ones Oren had been sending to Anat in the past, he goes full steam ahead igniting a brisk business. But Moti (Zohar Shtrauss), Anat’s Orthodox brother, warns Anat that the café could lose its kosher certificate because the oven has been (horrors!) used by a Gentile.
Among other themes is that of a fish out of water. Thomas, who (without explanation) must have closed his Berlin establishment while spending time in Jerusalem is learning quite a bit about Jewish life there: how on Shabbat, loudspeakers announce the time, prodding people to remember their obligations to prayer; what a Jewish, albeit non-religious woman and her young son, recite in Hebrew before dinner; how Jews believe it is not good to be alone, especially on Shabbat; and how Hanna (Sandra Slade),a Jewish grandmother, takes a liking to Thomas as though looking for a replacement for her own son.
This is a thoroughly hamish (home-like) look at the conflicts faced by a Berliner whose lover had just died, and also the opposition he faces from a member of the Jewish family who at first rejects the idea of a Gentile’s working with Anat, then warms up to him, and ultimately changes his mind once again. The sexual scenes, one involving rear nudity, are tasteful, and the movie, which will probably be a staple during Israeli Film Festivals, will be coming to New York on June 11 at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and will open on June 29th at commercial theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
Unrated. 105 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+