Israel In Sight

Catching the Death Boat Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star Seeing the Middle East in all its colors

But Brant's fame only made him anxious and isolated. He became fearful of losing his high status, simultaneously longing for his roots. When the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973, Brant returned to Israel to entertain the troops, often deliberately going to dangerous front-line positions. The war left him feeling increasingly edgy and unfocused as he struggled to reconcile his French superstar persona with his humble Israeli past. The changing music scene, which was moving into the glitzy disco era, also rattled him. His Tom Jones-style balladeering no longer sold well, but his disco-style tunes lacked much individuality. The pressures of stardom finally overwhelmed him when he interrupted a sold-out concert and walked off the stage, unable to continue. Soon after, he entered a psychiatric clinic, but left after less than two weeks' treatment. Visiting his agent's hotel suite in Geneva, the star made a failed suicide plunge, leaving him injured but still alive. After returning to Paris, Brant died in 1975 in another fall from a balcony.

Erez Laufer's long documentary tries to frame this story by setting up Brant's death as a mystery, but his troubled mental history is so evident, it's hard to imagine his death as anything but suicide. Overall Laufer's approach to the story is heavy on extensive musical interludes and very light on character insight. Interviews with Brant's hangers-on make for ghoulish humor -- some of them, like his managers or his ex-girlfriend, come off as downright bizarre.

But the obvious ironies in Brant's life are not examined: He claims repeatedly to be unconcerned with his good looks, yet the archival footage catches him constantly obsessing over his hairdo and his clothes. His serial romances, his isolation, his obsessions with fame, all point to a chronic narcissism. And that neatly mirrors the narcissistic pop culture that promoted him: He's its poster boy and its victim. But Laufer's approach skims these issues, favoring instead extensive footage of Brant's concert performances. What might have been a taut psychological portrait turns into a less-than-engaging retrospective. Brant fans -- and there must be quite a few given his immense popularity -- may get real satisfaction from this documentary, but others less familiar (or less thrilled) with Brant may find the film's 100-minute running time overlong for its rather typical life story. Moishe Brand set out to become an American-style pop idol, and he succeeded: He got fame, fortune, drugs, sex, and a sorry -- if typical -- end.-- Ronald Mangravite

The after-death love boat (top) sets sail; the hard rock life of France's favorite Israeli pop star (bottom)
The after-death love boat (top) sets sail; the hard rock life of France's favorite Israeli pop star (bottom)

Mike Brant: Laisse-Moi T'aimer screens at 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4.

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