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The Band's Visit

1 rating: 4.0
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Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: February 8, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about The Band's Visit

All about loneliness, and even optimistic in a low-key way

  • Jul 29, 2011
Rating:
+4
This low-key, seemingly slow-moving Israeli movie offers a lot to those willing to sit still for a while. The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) is something of an uncomplicated, good-natured story, but scratch the surface of all those awkward people-getting-to-know people moments and there's a poignant look at loneliness.
 
The eight members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have arrived in Israel from Egypt to play at the opening ceremony of an Arab cultural center. But they mix-up the name of the city, get on the wrong bus, and wind up in a small Israeli town that seems plunked in the middle of desolation...all wind and dust, with a huge apartment complex not far away. (The real town is Yeruham, population 9,000, in the Negev desert. I doubt if the place gets many tourists, or will after this movie.)
 
The band is led by Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai), a serious, strict, middle-aged man who speaks halting English. When the bus that dropped them off departs, the eight men stand holding their instruments and looking uncomfortable in their powder blue uniforms. Tawfiq finally walks across the highway to a small café where two idlers sit watching him. He introduces himself to the proprietor, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), fortyish, confident, good-looking and so bored with her life that she sees these Egyptians as something of a challenge. They're in the wrong town, there's no hotel and there's no bus until the morning, so she feeds them and arranges for the band members to stay with some of the town's residents. She takes in Tawfiq and the band's young violinist and trumpet player, the tall and smooth Haled (Saleh Bakri). For the rest of the night we watch as coffee is sipped, dinners are eaten, awkward conversations take place (and some not so friendly ones) and liquor is sipped. Haled goes to a roller skating rink with two young Israeli guys and their dates and winds up showing the very inexperienced one how to comfort a weeping girl. Mostly, we get to know Dina and Tawfiq...Dina, with a careless life when she was younger, still something of a rebel against the conventions and boredom of the town; Tawfiq, reserved and dignified, who holds silently the knowledge of a terrible mistake he made before he was widowed. We're there as they share tentatively some personal history.
 
No, love doesn't blossom and we don't walk away thinking that if only people could get to know each other all the Israeli-Arab problems could be solved. We might be moved and entertained, in a gentle way, as some tentative friendliness arises, but more than anything we're touched by the loneliness, for different reasons, that Tawfiq and Dina carry around with them. Haled winds up helping each of them in very different ways, but without being aware of it. He's just a young guy who plays the violin and horn, loves Chet Baker, is something of a rebel and admires good-looking women.
 
When the bus comes by the next morning and the band prepares to board, we get the strong feeling that Dina and Tawfiq will remember their encounter, and might even be happier for it.
All about loneliness, and even optimistic in a low-key way All about loneliness, and even optimistic in a low-key way All about loneliness, and even optimistic in a low-key way All about loneliness, and even optimistic in a low-key way

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