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Review: 'Waltz With Bashir'

Animated documentary is a haunting meditation on the nature of guilt and survival following a hellish war.

A scene from the Israeli film "Waltz With Bashir."

Sony Picture Classics

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Among the most heartening recent developments in movies is the upsurge in deeply personal animated films that break new aesthetic ground. I'm thinking particularly of Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly," Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," and now, and perhaps best of all, "Waltz With Bashir," by the Israeli director, screenwriter, and composer Ari Folman. (It is Israel's entry for the best foreign film Oscar and recently won best picture of the year from the National Society of Film Critics.)

Like "Persepolis," which was about Satrapi's Iranian odyssey, Folman's movie – Israel's first animated feature – is intensely autobiographical. He brings his deepest crazymaking anxieties right up to the surface. Folman was a 17-year-old Israeli soldier during the 1982 invasion of Beirut and the subsequent massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. Twenty-five years later, he still cannot come to terms with his complicity in the bloodshed. He is in such denial that he cannot even clearly recall his participation. "Waltz With Bashir" is his quest to find out what happened. It follows Folman through a series of interviews with fellow soldiers who also served.

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