It's quiet — too quiet — for this band of outsiders. 

The Band's Visit begins with a silent-movie title card: "Once — not long ago — a small Egyptian police band arrived in Israel. Not everyone remembers this; it wasn't very important." Seldom has an opening shot summarized a film better.

Writer/director Eran Kolirin's new comedy is demure, modest, and simple. It's also boring as hell, but if you don't mind some quiet time in the theater to think for yourself while the film's poetry leavens, it can hardly be called a disappointment.

The police band's leader is singer-conductor Lieutenant-Colonel Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai). Dressed in his sky-blue quasi-military ensemble, Tawfiq stiff-chests his way through the film like he's king of the crossing guards. When he's not incanting his band's name, "Alexandria Ceremonial Orchestra," to anyone within earshot — as if it were a magical mantra that could lift him from the Israeli town he and his boys mistakenly find themselves in — he keeps his eye on Haled (Saleh Bakri), a lean, confident smoothie whose interest in foreign women supersedes his fears of a foreign land.

After some poky, jokey compositions in and around the airport that toy with deep and shallow space — the actors peep and peer out from the edges of the frame like endangered species caught on tape for the first time — the band stops for food and directions at a wayside café run by Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), a forty-something woman whose time in this dusty backwater has not dimmed her lust for life. Because this small town has no hotel, and because there's no bus to take the band to the city where they are supposed to perform, Dina offers a couple band members beds for the evening. Incredibly low-voltage romantic mischief follows — or threatens to.

Elkabetz shows a little paunch and weariness in her body and posture, and she spits English in a way that nobody could call seductive, but she's a natural, sexy performer and a reminder of what is lost when only certain kinds of feminine beauty are allowed onscreen. Tawfiq resists her arsenal of romantic gestures as long as he can, until some revelations tumble from him in lieu of a goodnight kiss.

The wait for action of any kind is long for the other actors, who always seem to stand at right angles to each other like variables in an unsolved geometry problem. But the little poetry of little movies is there waiting. One sequence, in which Haled takes another café worker on the town and tries to teach him the rules of love in a nearly empty roller-rink, begins and ends with a sad sigh that evokes some of Buster Keaton's tentative romantic moments.

In spite of some of these moments, I still found The Band's Visit too slow and reserved. Maybe something else was going on with me as I watched it, though. While Tawfiq tried to resist Dina's advances, I kept thinking about Brett Favre's retirement from football. Now, I'm a huge Packers fan — a season-ticket holder, in fact. Seeing one more classy, talented, larger-than-life old-timer ruefully pass up a chance for bliss was probably too much for me to bear.

The Band's Visit

Opening Friday, March 21st

Ridgeway

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Blade Runner 2049

      A science fiction masterpiece with an Elvis cameo
    • Unreal Film Festival 2017

      Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Festival Invades Studio On The Square.

Blogs

News Blog

Mud Island Could be Home of New Freshwater Aquarium

News Blog

Brooks Leaders Confirm Interest in Riverfront Move

We Saw You

Foaming at the mouth at Cooper-Young Beerfest

News Blog

New Mural Installed on Highland Strip

News Blog

Terminix: A Ghost? In Memphis, Probably a Roof Rat

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies to waive or trade Baldwin, Zagorac today

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Eric Hughes

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • Where To Invade Next

    • Mar 1, 2016
  • I Am Not Your Negro

    Raoul Peck’s documentary brings James Baldwin’s words to an America that needs to listen.
    • Feb 24, 2017
  • Time Warp Drive-In 2016

    Scorsese leads off another season of retro movies under the stars.
    • Mar 17, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation