Keren Yedaya’s Or (My Treasure), winner of the Camera d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a dour screed against prostitution that views the profession as merely a crime perpetrated against desperate, downtrodden women; never, even in its most tender, incisive moments, does it consider the fact that women frequently choose this line of work for a reason. The story of an Israeli whore named Ruthie (Late Marriage’s Ronit Elkabetz) and the daughter (Dana Ivgi’s titular Or) she unwittingly converts into a trick-turning mirror image of herself, Yedaya’s bleak film views the sex trade as an infectious societal disease. Ruthie’s face is pockmarked with red sores, and her bloody legs and crotch reveal the painful price of nights spent on the street courting drunken johns. Courtesy of the director’s uncompromising static compositions and extended, unbroken takes, one gets a startling sense of the brutal physical toll (and corrupting moral degradation) of prostitution. But what’s missing from Yedaya’s austere drama is any reference to the larger socio-political factors that compel women like Ruthie – whose desire to sell herself seems driven by more than just monetary concerns – to persistently ply their feminine wares in dank alleyways. Or and Ruthie come across as passive victims rather than active participants in their tragic plight, and though one can sympathize with their depressing situation, Yedaya’s refusal to lay any blame at her protagonists’ feet – or to at least sufficiently explain why they have no other career choices – lends the film a narrow-minded moralizing that’s most unwelcome.
-- 2004 New York Film Festival