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'The Cakemaker' finds international romance beyond cookies and cakes

It all begins with cinnamon cookies, coffee and a very toothsome slice of traditional black forest cake. Romances – gay or straight – have, no doubt, begun from far less.

The Israeli man who travels to Berlin monthly on business wastes no time getting involved with the German cakemaker whose bakery has made him a very happy visitor even though he has a wife back home in Jerusalem who is about to reopen her own remodeled cafe.

It takes barely six minutes of screen time for the two men to fall into bed together in Berlin. It's what happens after that, though, that makes this very unusual romantic triangle rooted in grief, so distinctive, even among bisexual romances at the movies.

After cake, cookies, coffee and romance, tragedy strikes as we find out quickly. The German cakemaker keeps calling his sudden Israeli love across the water in Jeruselem but can't get through on his cell phone. There's a good reason for  that. He has died in a car accident.

Which is when the odd triangle of "The Cakemaker" begins in earnest its quiet tale of emotional revelation. As part of his grief, the German baker travels to Jerusalem to be close to the woman who was once so important to the man he fell in love with in Berlin.

No spoiler alert was necessary, I assure you, because this is where the subtly nuanced romantic dance of emotional exploration begins.

Our cakemaker, in mourning, gets a job in the widow's cafe without revealing the immense connection in their lives. Without revealing that connection, he becomes crucial to her business and her life. That's what happens when your cinnamon cookies and black forest cake taste that good.

The romance of the Israeli widow and her dead husband's German lover is the heart of the film. Everything around it is small and understated but moving.

Our Israeli widow, for instance, is more than a little lackadaisical about what's kosher and what isn't, which the movie indicates isn't trivial in Israel. Suffice it to say, her new German lover introduces sex into their relationship in a very tender but decidedly unkosher way.

This is not a movie in any narrative hurry to tell its tale. But then this love triangle from beyond the grave is so unusual that it doesn't have to. All the young Israeli director has to do is pay close attention to the continuously tightening distance between the huge emotions involved and the highly controlled expressions of inner life that these people allow themselves.

A bit more of an emotional burn would have helped make the film more memorable, but it's perfectly fine for the quiet and subtly powerful little thing that it is.

"The Cakemaker"

3 stars (out of 4)

Tim Kahlkof, Sarah Adler, Roy Miller and Zohar Strauss in Ofir Raul Grazier's subtle film about a highly unusual bisexual love triangle involving an Israeli visiting Germany. In German, Hebrew and English in subtitles. No rating, but R equivalent for dorsal male nudity and very gentle sex. 113 minutes. Opens Thursday at the Dipson Eastern Hills Mall.

 

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