Friday, April 18, 2008


Happy Feet

I catch The Band's Visit and find that I am in agreement with most reviewers: the film is a delight without being cloying. Members of an Egyptian police band find themselves stranded overnight in a dead-or-alive Israeli desert town. The band members and the locals, who offer them awkward and somewhat reluctant hospitality, form bonds of intimacy in inauspicious circumstances.

Politics aren't mentioned. Instead, we have halting conversations between guests and hosts about love, about the importance of music, about the pain of loss. Because they know they will never see each other again, confidences are shared. And the unspoken contrast is always there, between lively, open, cosmopolitan Alexandria, where the band hail from and which we never see, and the sterile Israeli settlement. There's much humour alongside the poignancy, including a positively Chaplinesque scene at the local roller skating rink. .

I spot a friend in the cinema audience. We meet up afterwards and compare notes. This happens in a small town (or even a not-so-small town), you meet people you know. Those of us who have alternative tendencies, who are interested in the environment and world cinema, and walking and yoga, tend to hang out in the same places.

We run into each other unexpectedly. Then we talk. I'm really not used to this.


Anonymous said...

Nice coincidence here. I talked to my dad yesterday on the phone. We talked for an hour, which is unusual. He's not usually chatty, especially with me. But part of the conversation was about The Band's Visit. He went with friends and really liked it (rare for him. He loves to criticize films). So now I have a definite pick for Netflix. (Do you have that in England?)

Sometimes we'll get foreign films or art films in the local cinema. They'll show up for three days and then disappear. When I go -- and I try to -- there'll usually be a scattering of half a dozen or so people in an almost empty theatre, and most of those people will be my colleagues! That's life in a redneck town in the U.S. :-)

mm said...

Tarakuanyin: I think you'll enjoy the film. Yes, we do have Netflix and as our local cinema, though good, is small , I suspect I will be signing up.

Your experience at the cinema is just the same as mine. I'm always running into colleagues/acquaintances there - or indeed anywhere in town. Mostly I enjoy this, but it is such a contrast to the anonymity of London.

tarakuanyin said...

Anonymity can be nice. Being a teacher in a small town makes me very visible. I run into former students all the time. At least it's not quite when I was a journalist in a small town and people would strike up conversations with me as though we were old friends on the basis of my mug shot in the paper! That was disconcerting.

mm said...

Yes, I can imagine being a teacher adds a different dynamic to the meetings. How would I feel if I met my boss unexpectedly, I wonder?

Still, at the moment I'm enjoying the sense of community.