Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Band's Visit (2007, Eran Kolirin)

Not much to report, alas- aside from the culture-clash element, The Band's Visit is pretty much your basic festival-friendly foreign comedy with a heart. Early scenes of incongruous Egyptians in powder blue uniforms looking out of place in an arid Israeli town give way to scenes in which they try to bridge the gap with their unlikely new friends. There are a few inspired spots, but just as often the movie retreats into "look-at-these-backwards-small-towners" gags, as when one of the band members tags along with some locals to a roller disco. The film only really takes on a life of its own when the principal duo- Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz- are onscreen. The actors have an unforced rapport between them, Gabai with his courtly nobility, Elkabetz with her knack for cutting through the bullshit. Unlike the rest of the film, their moments together are filled with genuine feeling, which makes it all the more disappointing when Kolirin cuts away to, say, the sweaty local who waits by the pay phone for his girlfriend to call. The Band's Visit is no better or worse than the hundreds of other films like it, and for all the outcry over its being disqualified for Oscar consideration by the foreign-language branch, I think the publicity may have raised its profile with audiences, because on its own is really nothing special. Rating: 5 out of 10.

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