King Khat

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

King Khat
"Marantz obviously shares Shalev's viewpoint on the subject but even if you don't, the personal nature of this pacy film is a large part of what makes it so enjoyable." | Photo: Courtesy of POFF

Taking its nod from its subject - legal highs - matter Uri Marantz's documentary hybrid is a trippy little treat that mixes live action with animation and, one suspects, the truth with a whole lot more besides. He tells the story of nerdy Israeli chemist Gabi Shalev (Oshri Cohen), who after running out of cash to feed his coke habit and encountering the psychoactive plant khat, set about developing a synthetic drug that mimicked its effects.

Shalev - whose name has been changed for the purposes of this film - sets out his philosophy as he narrates the story. It's a perspective that views drug taking as a natural response to the inevitability of death. He argues that getting high is a "normal need", noting that there are plenty of other creatures in the animal kingdom that aren't averse to that. This opens the door for a story about elephants' desire to get drunk and, more broadly, to the use of elephants as an animated motif that will run through the story.

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Marantz obviously shares Shalev's viewpoint on the subject but even if you don't, the personal nature of this pacy film is a large part of what makes it so enjoyable. As Shalev provides an anchor for the story, which becomes rooted not just in his desire for chemical formulae - and the subsequent party drug craze he sparked - but also his love of an architect, Limor (Hadar Diamond). Cohen and the other characters involved with his initial creation Hagigat (party khat) wander through the film as an explosion of capitalism and creativity happens around them.

There's more than a touch of Terry Gilliam to the animated anarchy from Nir Matarasso, who isn't afraid to throw highbrow art into the mix. The Last Supper becomes a snort-fest, while Andy Warhol's soup cans stack up in Shalev's kitchen and Grant Wood's American Gothic pair find themselves on a fairground ride.

The musical accompaniment is similarly eclectic. Large chunks of the original score from Stav Levy and Noam Vardi recall the emotional gear changes of silent movie soundtracks but are laced with the likes of Mozart's Lacrimosa, Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra and Irving Berlin's After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It. You will want this though, and its trim running time and apparently boundless creativity, will leave you craving more.

Reviewed on: 03 Dec 2023
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A young scientist becomes fascination by the psychoative properties of the khat plant and discovered it was a legal drug to make. This hybrid film considers what happens next

Director: Uri Marantz

Writer: Uri Marantz

Starring: Oshri Cohen, Hadar Diamond

Year: 2023

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: Israel, Portugal

Festivals:

Black Nights 2023

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