First time feature director Eran Kolirin has produced a very, very difficult film to dislike.
First-time feature director Eran Kolirin has produced a very, very difficult film to dislike in The Band’s Visit, a charismatic and luminous little comedy which addresses ideas of social and cultural displacement, as well as what it means to be part of a group, whether it be a nation or, well, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band.
Stranded in a desolate Israeli town in which conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) believes his band are due to give a performance, the slow realisation that they may have taken a wrong turn along the way ends with them being convinced by a friendly local snack bar owner that they should perhaps stay the night, then gather their bearings in the morning.
The film accepts the straightforward task of documenting this one, distinctly odd, evening as fleeting friendships are forged every bit as swiftly as they’re forgotten, and larger-scale political schisms are set aside in favour of a brief, bittersweet détente.
With a firm handle of tone and texture (think Jarmusch goes east), Kolirin manages to weave a series of delightfully deadpan sketches from the situation, as his motley band of players (decked out in absurd powder-blue suits, with shiny gold sashes and epaulets) attempt to glean the most from this night away from home.
The film’s most memorable scene involves a trip to the local roller disco, in which loved-up lothario Khaled (Saleh Bakri) attempts to snag some small-town action with a mixture of smooth moves and a miniature bottle of spirits. Though the film may be dismissed by some as a slight and overly genteel piece of work, at its core lies a genuine proposal suggesting just how easily differences can be put aside.
Egyptian brass band gets lost in Israel? Sounds wacky enough to be decent.
What a charming, laugh-out-loud little gem this is.
Sure, there’s fun to be had, but there’s also more to it than meets the eye.