Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Band's Visit

The Band's Visit
Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Avaraham, Rubi Moskovitz and Saleh Bakri

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 8, 2008 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

Unfortunately, this low-key droll film wasn't able to compete in the Best Foreign-Language film category for Israel because over half the dialogue was in English. Just another way to keep it under the radar, to quell something insightful and possibly controversial to some.

The Band's Visit centers around a cultural exchange concert in Israel. Upon their arrival at the airport an Egyptian police group is left behind. Writer-director Eran Kolirin stages the "action" in after-hours fashion.

Sasson Gabai plays Tewfiq, the band's conductor head, who dispatches orders to the various members. Yet, they wind up in another locale, in a quiet town in the middle of the desert. A pub proprietor (Ronit Elkabetz), along with regulars (Shlomi Avaraham and Rubi Moskovitz) are willing to help them head in the right direction.

The simple, if off-center look at Arab/Israel interaction unfolds with vignettes surrounding the denizens and their musical, dislocated counterparts. It's not immune from a dash of diplomacy or romantic interludes. It gradually becomes quite endearing as it almost seems like one of those unusually incisive, humanistic "Dogma"-type pictures.

The actors perform noticeably well with much naturalism from the uncomplicated schematic from Kolirin. Especially Gabai's meticulous, fussy Tewfiq whose tradition-bound fellow conflicts with rebellious, handsome Khaled (Saleh Bakri). Elkabetz's Dina is delightful opposite these two. And, the long-take sequence in a roller skating rink has Bakri shine opposite the introverted, lovelorn Avraham.

The Band's Visit is spry and witty, using the sarcastic and the desolate locations to its advantage. If one feels a bit aloof from the off-putting struggles, a passion ultimately simmers in a subtly wonderful manner. The envy and familial quarreling turns into a kind of an intimate detente. Personalities become resonant, as some of these scoundrelous folks find out how histories and desires aren't that dissimilar. An askew, emotional expose is gently wound up for deeper admiration into just they way they are.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Band's Visit           B+            B+ 

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