A critical darling and the subject of a current retrospective at Anthology, filmmaker Nina Menkes has been crafting formally audacious, modestly budgeted films for a quarter century; both her fictional and avant-vrit movies tend to be intimate, intense and fixated on the moral ramifications of violence. So the notion that Menkes would take on Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and set it in Tel Aviv (a city familiar with conflict) seems, in hindsight, like an inevitability. The surprise is that she didn't get around to it sooner or, as her previous protagonists have been women, radically recast the material from a complex female perspective.
That gender-flip might have worked wonders with Dissolution, which isn't to detract from Didi Fire's Raskolnikovian antihero; the Israeli actor communicates feral desperation as well as anyone. Rather, the switch could've lent some sort of frisson to the proceedings, which neither the Middle East relocation nor the aesthetic choices inspire in the least. Literalizing its title, the movie fractures the narrative into long-take vignettes---Fire cooking up cow lungs, Fire chatting in a techno-blaring bar---which suggest little more than a parody of New York underground-film nihilism; you'd swear Menkes were remaking Frownland in the Holy Land instead of tweaking a literary totem. Only Dissolution's divine climax feels truly poetic. Having the stamina to not break down on the journey to that moment is half the battle.
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