Bikur Ha-Tizmoret [The Band’s Visit] (2007)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Bikur Ha-Tizmoret</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">The Band’s Visit</strong>] (2007)

(On DVD, December 2009) How you react to The Band’s Visit may depend on your tolerance for unconventional scripts.  The Band’s Visit proceeds from a conventional fish-out-of-water premise (On their way to another destination, an Egyptian police band finds itself marooned overnight in a small Israeli settlement), but ends up delivering a story built on discomfort, twisted agendas and lengthy static shots.  It’s refreshingly original, heart-warmingly human and all of those coded reviewer-speak expressions for “You should feel ashamed of yourself if you don’t enjoy this” but it doesn’t make The Band’s Visit any faster-paced or accessibly rewarding.  The characters are all damaged in their own ways, and their intentions are rarely noble: One’s generous offer of shelter may mask loneliness and attempts to create jealousy, for instance.  Fortunately, the film can depend on good actors to pull it off: Acting-wise, the film belongs to the dogged weariness of Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz, both of them unconventionally compelling as the leaders of their own groups.  The single-camera scenes drag on, and much of the film occurs in silence.  Which is fairly amusing considering how naturally language is weaved into the script as the two groups of characters converse in their own language between themselves and have to resort to English in order to understand each other.  The ending offers no grand triumph, but a series of small victories that reward without being overwhelming.  Such small and overarching touches do help a lot in making this film interesting and entertaining, but they also push it further into the “foreign curio” category, with a side order of exasperation when the thin plot seems to go nowhere.  The DVD doesn’t contain much except for a thin making-of documentary that affirms that, yes, the film is meant to be slow.

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