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Trying the 'Traitor'

April 22, 2010
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"The Little Traitor" is a little treasure.

A coming-of-age allegory about a young boy and a young nation, "Traitor" is seditiously seductive. It straps the story of a Jewish youngster accused of collaborating with a British officer during that nation's mandate control of Palestine around a lovely, funny rites of passage play for both the boy and the State of Israel.

The write stuff belongs to Amos Oz upon whose Panther in the Basement this is based in its lithe leap to the screen. But it is writer/director Lynn Roth's agile and adroit adaptation that makes this fine film -- especially suited for families -- such a wonderfully warm addition to a spring break from mindless, milquetoast movies.

The land of milk and honey -- the movie, opening April 23 at the Ritz Five, was shot in Jerusalem -- is a backdrop of a journey of land and heart as Proffy Liebowitz (an uncanny Ido Port) straddles the age of 12 as a dizzying demarcation line between wonder and warrior.

Befriended by a Brit sergeant (another Alfred Molina marvel), part of the occupying force in pre-Israel Palestine, Proffy proffers his own friendship, reluctantly at first, committed by mid-movie, discovering that the enemy without is often not as menacing as the enemy within.

In the Dark
As he uncovers his veneer of vitriol for the British and discovers that the very model of a major generality is jejune, Proffy profits emotionally from the odd coupling of a liaison, all the while unknowing that this same friendship may hamper his parents' harboring of Haganah heroes.

It is the misunderstanding by his neighbors and the pre-teen's so-called friends -- who see the youngster's surreptitious visits to the sergeant as major traitorous trappings -- that seems a prescient plot line for all the Mideast mess of mistrust to follow.

The movie embraces a coda that cold-cocks any concern that peace is impossible.

"The Little Traitor" must be tried for stealing the heart -- guilty on all tear-stained counts.


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