The Time That Remains
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Drawing on his father's life as a resistance fighter in Nazareth, Elia Suleiman's chiefly comic story of their family during wartime (of one sort or another) is unlike most treatments of the subject. Though starting from 1948, it's more a series of deft rolling vignettes than a saga, but the longer postwar stretch (amidst elegant environs and natty suits) sets the scene for resistance, bemusement, resignation, evolving throughout. The gentle, effortless balance on the edge of absurdity never quite tumbles into anger, a calculated move that risks slightness toward the modern-era finish, as father Fuad and then son Elia age.
Gunrunner Fuad (Saleh Bakri, whose matinee looks belie his dead-on timing) dominates the film's first half, with a grown Elia (Suleiman himself, not as delightfully deadpan as he may imagine) entering the spotlight later as a kind of premature retiree from life in his hometown. Though noting pivotal events and dwelling on the oddities and indignities of urban occupations, Suleiman tells history through precise pitches in tone and humor: a youthfully headstrong dash from Israeli soldiers down deserted Expressionist streets, a terribly serene garden of blindfolded prisoners, a club-beat dance party with a tank watching, an infirm mother listening to an immigrant nurse's English-language karaoke.
The four-square shots and contained retro-vivid color, which might belong to a deadpan Scandinavian comedy, here engender a living memoir, and by the end, almost unexpectedly, a sense of urbane resilience.
Opens January 7