The story of an Egyptian police marching band stranded in a small Israeli town, Eran Kolirin's sweet little film has a few sharp points to make about Jewish-Arab relations, but most of the laughs spring from good old-fashioned miscommunication and embarrassment. Stranded and unable to contact their embassy, the marching band are forced to seek shelter with the bemused locals, and must endure a long night of confusion, social gaffes and unrequited lust.
The best reason to seek the film out is Sasson Gabai's lovely performance as Tewfic, the rigidly traditional band leader whose formal facade gradually crumbles beneath the gaze of Ronit Alkabez's lonely Jewish restauranteur. Bakri looks like a cross between Javier Bardem and Charles De Gaulle: his face is a relief map of wounded dignity dominated by an imperious conk. Tewfic's stoic acceptance of his farcical situation - completely lost in an unfriendly country and seriously overdressed to boot - gives the film a gently tragic dimension that contrasts nicely with the wry humour elsewhere.
"CHARMING LOW-BUDGET WHIMSY"
Director Kolirin is very good at milking laughs from silence - a fumbling seduction scene at the local roller-disco is an absolute scream - but he does tend to let his camera linger on neat compositions for an awfully long time, presumably in the hope that they will eventually become profound. The Band's Visit is the kind of film that will appeal to patient viewers: charming, low-budget whimsy with a soupcon of political relevance. The music is lovely too.
The Band's Visit is out in the UK on 9th November 2007.