Hello Goodbye (2008) is now on circuit in Southern Africa. It is a romantic comedy with a difference, set in Paris, France, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Based on a novel by Moshe Gaash, Hello Goodbye is the story of two Parisians, who after 25 years of marriage, take a holiday in Israel and then, based on promises and raised expectations decide to migrate there and become Israelis.
In Paris, Alain Gaash (yes, two A's) (acted by Gerard Depardieu) has a life that has, at 54 years of age, reached a degree of fulfilment. He fails to observe that his wife, Gisele Gaash (played by Fanny Ardant) has reached a dead-end in Paris and wants a change, a real change. His parents came from Lithuania and are Jewish. Alain is through-and-through a secular Jew - he does not know the Torah, speak Yiddish or Hebrew, isn't even concerned to eat only Kosher food and wasn't even circumcised - none of his friends, tennis mates and hospital colleagues where he works as a respected gynaecologist even know he is Jewish by origin.
Gisele's moment of truth comes when their son announces he is in love and getting married next week, and leaving them to live with his new wife. When Gisele married Alain she, partly to please his parents, converted to Judaism. She is upset that their son Nicolas (Julien Baumgartner) is "getting married in the church" instead of a synagogue.
Alain assumes her new concerns are just an expression of the "empty-nest syndrome"- so he humours her. He cannot really hear what she is saying, or realise that she is also questioning their wealthy, bourgeois way of life, that for her has become irrelevant.
What starts out as a vacation ends as a major shift in their lives. On their first visit to Israel promises of a new flat in a modern development and a job as a ranking gynaecologist in a modern Tel Aviv hospital come to: "Soon, God willing". They find they are mis-lead by a well-intentioned hospital administrator Siletsky (Gilles Gaston-Dreyfus) and property developer, Shapiro (Manu Payet). Speaking only French they seek out other Israelis who know French. Gisele wants to identify with Israel and starts taking lessons in Hebrew and in Jewish culture and history. One of her French-speaking teachers is Rabbi Yossi (Lior Ashkenazi) whom she finds attractive and interesting.
This swinging Rabbi and his various friends and activities repulse Alain.
Yet he eventually succumbs to his wife's entreaties that he becomes one of them. As he was never circumcised, the first step is to be circumcised. He is horrified but eventually acquiesces. The doctor pronounces that in 35 years he is the first adult on whom he has removed the foreskin.
When they arrive in Israel, instead of staying in a hotel they go to a local immigrants hostel. Everything is sparse and simple. They use public transport. Alain learns what it means to have to wait and wait, often for a number of hours in various bureaucratic queues. He is not the first doctor to migrate and discover that his skills are not wanted. In his case the film merely claims there is an over supply of gynaecologists in Israel.
For older and experienced doctors moving to other countries, the usual barrier to employment is failure to have their original qualifications recognised, and to have to pass local medical examinations. In Alain's case, why he doesn't seek some alternative opportunities in medicine is never explained, but then this is a comedy and that might not have been as funny as all the things that happen to him along the way.
A minor plot device involves their becoming friends with another family of Gashes (one A). The family head, Simon Gash (Jean Benguigui) also has problems with work. After being evicted from a Tel Aviv restaurant for asking for kosher food ("You can get that at home") he opens a kosher restaurant that has yet to become popular. He too had to get circumcised, and demonstrates, with unexpected consequences, to Alain what that entailed.
Who is in the mood for love and not in the mood for love is also a comedic theme in Hello Goodbye. Alain says to Gis¸le, "I thought Israel would bring us closer". It does and it doesn't, but the path is strange and unpredictable. Alain keeps secrets from Gis¸le, and she from him, as each is afraid of the impact of the revelations. Things come to a head when a friend from Paris visits them and each tries still to hide what has happened to them. The Chief of Police (Sasson Gabai) says to Alain, "You are not Jewish, who are you?" Asked what he wants to do, Alain replies, "To go home". "Where is that?"
Gerard Depardieu made his first film in 1967 when he was 19.
He has starred in nearly 200 movies since then. Fanny Ardant is nearly a decade younger, entering movies in 1976 and has featured in nearly eight films. Together they make a great comic team.
Hello Goodbye is a famous old Beatles' song. A more cutting title, as it is in the German edition, is "Israel or Divorce" might have served to make this unusual comedy more popular. The music is made up of many old songs, not just as a background, but often as a pause to collect. They are sung while the characters act, without words - except those of the song.
Hello Goodbye is one hour and 39 minutes long. It is in French and Hebrew with English subtitles. The director is Graham Guit. The script is by Michael Lellouche, based on the novel by Moshe Gaash. The Cinematographer is Gerard Sterin. The music is by the Beatles.