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    Mideast piece

    "Buzz" is not just a standard juvenile-delinquent film; it poses some tough questions about national character and the male psyche.


    Have I got a couple of nice Jewish boys for you to meet. Ido is a good kid, he just spends too much time with the raffish Rafi. In fact, Rafi's a good kid too, he's just being influenced by his idol Ido. At least this is what their parents tell themselves while the teen terrors get deeper and deeper into trouble.

    Directed by: Eli Cohen.
    Written by: Yael O'Dwyer.
    Cast: Sharon Zur, Tony Tien, Aitzik Atzmon, Ahuva Keren, Shmuel ben Ari.
    In Hebrew with English subtitles.
    The boys of "Buzz" — an Israeli film based on a notorious crime there — start with routine bullying and vandalism, burning their classmates with matchsticks and rampaging through a candy shop. But they are not about to stop at that, and they hint darkly that their biggest crime is yet to come. Meanwhile, the adults around them assume the best of the boys — except for a cop who won't back down and a school psychologist who ultimately declares, "These kids are bad. Bad, bad, bad!" But the efforts of these two are stymied because Ido's father is a well-connected lawyer and air-force hero who repeatedly patches things up with the authorities. The two kids learn their lesson: They can do whatever they want and no one will touch them.

    This is hardly the first juvenile-delinquent scare movie ever made, and it works in some of the genre's standard pop-psychology and audience-shocking elements: Deluded parents! Satanism! Teen drinking and sex!

    But it has a few unusual aspects that make it especially interesting. In particular, it explores a connection between the father's Israeli military machismo and the son's violent outbursts. The kids mark their crimes with graffiti that says "Buzz" in Hebrew and English, openly claiming credit while defying their elders to trace the crimes to them, and it's explained that the word comes from a popular rap tune. Only later do we learn that "Buzz" also has special significance to Ido's hero father, inviting us to ask whether the teenager's violence is either a way of competing with his dad or a form of the same male aggression that makes a strong soldier.

    As long as we're pop-psychologizing, it's a question that we could ask in this country about our own notorious cases of violence — are the young men who go on armed rampages in this country really the flip side of an increasingly popular aggression that we mistakenly think we've channeled toward positive purposes?

    NOVEMBER 14, 1999

    Reader comments on Buzz:

  • BUZZ   from KETY, Aug 9, 2001

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