‘Golden Voices’ Review: In Tel Aviv, With an Unappreciated Talent

Among other things, the late-1980s collapse of the Soviet state brought about both the privatization of Russian industry and the government’s softening of laws forbidding Jews to emigrate from the land. “Golden Voices,” a winning comedy-drama directed by the Israeli filmmaker Evgeny Ruman, himself a son of immigrants from Belarus, locates its unusual narrative at the meeting point of those two post-U.S.S.R. circumstances.

Victor and Raya, played by Vladimir Friedman and Maria Belkin, were top Russian-dubbing artists in the post-Stalin “thaw.” (“You turned Kirk Douglas into a great actor,” an old fan enthuses to Victor about his work on “Spartacus.”) Now, in 1990, the state film apparatus doesn’t need them anymore, as it has ceased to exist. The couple had long wanted to settle in Israel anyway. On arrival, they quickly learn that demand for their particular talents is scarce.

These are warm, attractive, intelligent characters who believe in art, and Raya’s diffidence upon landing a job at a phone-sex warehouse is understandable. But she applies her talents aptly: She can be a “22-year-old virgin” on one call and a jaded, bored housewife on the next. Victor hooks up with some lo-fi video pirates, dubbing movies taped in theaters with a camcorder, but this messes with his sense of artistic integrity, not to mention his desire not to be arrested. Plus he’s plenty anxious over Iraq’s threatened missile attacks — which indeed arrive at the movie’s climax. Friedman and Belkin are dead-on credible at every turn.

Job tensions hammer at the fault lines of the couple’s marriage, but the movie maintains an understated “I love ya, tomorrow” tone. A pleasant sit — the kind of picture that’s moving, but not too moving.

Golden Voices
Not rated. In Russian and Hebrew, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters.

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