Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | Border Town: Suleiman Returns to Israeli-Palestinian Strife With "The Time That Remains"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire January 7, 2011 at 3:25AM

Elia Suleiman is among the few living filmmakers to employ slapstick comedy in his work, and the only one to politicize it. But where his 2002 feature "Divine Intervention" decried his Palestinian family's oppression at the hands of Israeli troops in Nazareth with a caustic, angry satiric bent, "The Time That Remains" strikes a decidedly mournful tone. The third entry in a trilogy preceded by the aforementioned Cannes winner and 1996's "Chronicle of a Disappearance," Suleiman's newest movie about Palestinian suffering (which is actually around two years old) maintains his personalized blend of autobiography and surrealistic polemics while viewing the issue with additional resignation.
0

Elia Suleiman is among the few living filmmakers to employ slapstick comedy in his work, and the only one to politicize it. But where his 2002 feature "Divine Intervention" decried his Palestinian family's oppression at the hands of Israeli troops in Nazareth with a caustic, angry satiric bent, "The Time That Remains" strikes a decidedly mournful tone. The third entry in a trilogy preceded by the aforementioned Cannes winner and 1996's "Chronicle of a Disappearance," Suleiman's newest movie about Palestinian suffering (which is actually around two years old) maintains his personalized blend of autobiography and surrealistic polemics while viewing the issue with additional resignation.

Subtitled "Chronicle of a Present Absentee," the film spans four eras. It begins a decade or so before Suleiman's birth, when his father Fuad (Saleh Bakri) opposes Israeli forces amidst the turmoil of the state's formation in 1948. The story then proceeds through young Elia's chaotic childhood, where he witnesses his father's arrest for arms smuggling and gets chided by a teacher for repeating the radical assertions he hears at home. ("Who told you America is imperialist?" an irate teacher asks.)

In the early 1980's, Elia appears as a jaded young adult (Ayman Espanioli) ready to explore the world. The final half hour finds Suleiman playing himself, as he returns to his hometown and spends time with his 80-year-old mother (Shafika Bajjali) in the wake of his father's death. In typical Suleiman fashion, these scenes unfold in a vignette-like fashion, and largely without dialogue or camera movement. Suleiman's self-made universe oscillates between lamenting the details of Israeli occupation to mocking it, sometimes within the context of a single scene.

After a disconcerting opening bit involving a lost cab driver, Suleiman gradually squeezes the tension out of his story, dismantling its initial momentum to haunting effect. Suleiman's deadpan approach creates the sense of drifting along a road to nowhere, particularly because it plays up absurdist contrasts between earlier eras and modern times. The scenes involving his father's lively activist efforts lead into a vision of Nazareth as a kind of ghost town stuck in the limbo created by militant suppression. Wandering his old neighborhood, the middle-aged Suleiman witnesses a young man calmly taking out the trash and chatting on his cell phone, while a tanks's massive gun barrel tracks his every move. In a single puzzled look, Suleiman bears witness to the complacency of a younger Palestinian generation fully integrated into the occupied life.

As usual, Suleiman offers no sympathy for the Israeli POV, reducing the military presence to scowling non-entities. At times it can be frustrating to parse out the specificities of his stance, but the movie clearly functions as a fierce indictment, if not an overt form of resistance. In "Divine Intervention," Suleiman indulged in wild, CGI-enhanced fantasies of opposing the occupation—such as drifting a balloon bearing Yasser Arafat's face into the old city of Jerusalem, or unleashing a gravity-defying femme fatale to deflect Israeli bullets in the movie's penultimate scene. Yet the greatest act of defiance in "The Time That Remains" finds Suleiman standing alone with a pole, poised to vault himself over the wall dividing Israeli and Palestinian lands. This scene was greeted with enthusiastic cheers at its initial screening during the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, but it contains a distinct sadness, as though Suleiman means to conclude with a shrug that no amount of individual dissent can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The extended silence lends a dreamlike sensation to the proceedings, which reveals the core of Suleiman's technique. Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton are normally the go-to comparisons when describing Suleiman's work, but his entire trilogy displays a contemporary similarity to the oeuvre of Todd Solondz, another director known for blending comic eccentricity with tragic undertones. (In fact, Solondz's recent "Life During Wartime" could trade titles with Suleiman's latest effort.)

Unlike Solondz, however, Suleiman's most poignant moments are largely wordless. Nothing feels more affecting than Suleiman's ubiquitous frozen stare. Although he never utters a sound, his silence speaks volumes about the inability to resolve the social ramifications of Middle Eastern strife. Little time remains, he argues, for a solution.

criticWIRE grade: A-

This article is related to: World Cinema, In Theaters, The Time That Remains






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More