Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Band's Visit: Which Won 35+ Awards

To say "The Band's Visit" was a bad film would be to start my review off with a lie. And what would ever drive me to do something like that? A film that can manage to be quirky yet poignant, remain engaging through a number of slowly paced sequences, and look as amazing as this, deserves more than 35 international, esteemed awards.

Eight members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra find themselves deserted for the night in the Israeli village Bet Hatikva, a ghost town with a similar name to where they're supposed to be, Petah Tiqva. A few kind strangers offer up their homes to the men, and through roughly three main stories touch on issues of loneliness, regret, and true happiness.

The film flows so elegantly between the separate story lines, it feels near magical. The humor and tenderness of the actors never once comes across as forced, and the writing makes the scenarios seem completely realistic, even when they shouldn't. The mingling of English, Hebrew and Arabic sounds like shear music, and what music is actually in the film is always right on the edge of sadness, almost beckoning for tears to be shed.
Photographically this film was incredible. The colors are very pastel, muted in every case. If Bresson is a master of framing within frames, Eran Kolirin is a master of framing without. Shots feel like some divine symmetry is being enforced, and those that don't are framed with all the action extremely to one side. I normally can't stand when something is out of focus, but the balance of deep focus, and distant out-of-focus shots is superb. Dazzling sequences of barren desert, too. Everything is crisp and sharp, but at the same time soft. And the way they handle close ups? Don't get me started on the way they handle close ups.

I want the cast of "The Band's Visit" to be in everything else. Absolutely everything else. They're... they're just so good. It's like they were forced to bear their very souls for the camera, at gunpoint, and with their children dangling over a pit of venomous snakes, because that's how good they were. The way they handle minute gestures, and all body language, is so precise, so stressed in the most subtle way. A lot of this review is oxymoronic... but it needs to be.

"The Band's Visit" is one of the best I've seen. Though it came out in 2007, and should have won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture, it was rejected by the Academy for being in English more than half the time. Which is an absolute insult. If it comes from another country, doesn't that make it foreign? It boggles the mind. "The Band's Visit" should win every award forever. No questions. Especially no questions.

- Eric T. Voigt, Felt A Little Shmaltzy On That One

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