The Band's Visit Eran Kolirin

The Band's Visit Eran Kolirin
By all rights, this gentle comedy shouldn’t really work — the thought of cute Egyptians finding hospitality in a remote Israeli town conjures terrifying images of saccharine condescension. But somehow the movie manages to be both credible and reasonably engrossing, a modest but definite success.

The eponymous band is a police orchestra from Egypt in Israel to play at an Arab cultural centre. But their ride doesn’t show and they wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere where they find a sympathetic ear from a divorcee with a snack bar. Thus the uptight but decent leader of the band and the bold but soulful restaurateur get to know each other, sharing opinions, memories and secrets while the rest of the players muddle through.

The film doesn’t come up with anything shattering but it’s pleasingly droll in its humour and genuinely unaffected in its drama — if the movie doesn’t blow your mind it’s surprisingly absorbing without insulting your intelligence. Shrewdly, the film avoids broad exposition and "big” scenes in favour of a sense of proportion, which is bolstered by the humorously micro-managed mise-en-scène. It even manages to sell a hoary old chestnut: the lothario who helps out a nebbish in love. Understanding its triviality and its comic potential, the filmmakers don’t promise too much and deliver more than you’d expect.

Understated, smartly directed and aware of its very gentle touch, it’s a time-killer in the very best sense. It’s something that doesn’t demand too much but still manages to keep you interested, watching and feeling like you haven’t been cheated, unlike so many other movies before it. (Mongrel Media)