The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) (PG-13)

Comedy 89 February 8, 2008
By Scott Foundas
Heavily accented English (don't worry, there are subtitles throughout) is the only common tongue shared by the characters of Israeli writer-director Eran Kolirin's highly impressive debut feature, in which the members of an Egyptian policemen's orchestra find themselves waylaid in an Israeli backwater town after taking the wrong bus to a concert. The musicians earn the sympathy of a brassy cafe owner (Ronit Elkabetz), who arranges for the men to spend the night as the lodgers of a few not entirely willing friends and neighbors — the very Israelis whose forefathers fought the Egyptians' forefathers for three decades. In the hands of many another filmmaker, that basic setup would make for an earnest exercise in getting to know thy former enemy. But Kolirin is too smart to bore us with ham-fisted humanistic bromides, and he has a sense of humor as dry as a desert wind. Yes, The Band's Visit is touching and uplifting and evokes those audience-friendly emotions against which film critics are believed to religiously steel themselves. But it merely plucks at your heartstrings rather than yanking on them, and it leaves you filled with an elating sense of possibility. Elkabetz, the sultry star of the 2001 Israeli import Late Marriage, is remarkable, as is actor Sasson Gabai, as the band's curmudgeonly widower conductor.
Eran Kolirin Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour, Imad Jabarin, Tarak Kopty, Hisham Khoury, Francois Khell, Eyad Sheety, Shlomi Avraham Eran Kolirin Eilon Ratzkovsky, Ehud Bleiberg, Yossi Uzrad, Koby Gal-Raday, Guy Jacoel Sony Pictures Classics


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