( M) THE elegant cover for the DVD release of The Band’s Visit is decorated with so many international award logos they look like medals on a proud general’s chest. Perhaps that is as it should be, for this film is a rare beast indeed: a gentle, quiet comedy that goes out of its way to haunt with stunning visuals of ordinary places and leaves many silences to speak for themselves. What a relief it is to watch something not crammed with dialogue, a film that doesn’t batter us to death with action sequences, special effects and snappy plot points. The band of the title is the very proud eight-member Alexandria Ceremonial Orchestra, an Egyptian troupe hired to play a concert at the Arab Cultural Centre in the town of Petah Tikva, Israel, enemy territory for them. We first meet them as they wait patiently to be collected at an Israeli airport in their smartly formal powder-blue suits. When nobody turns up to collect them, the preternaturally calm Tawfiq ( Sasson Gabai), who leads the band, is determined they will master their fate. Unfortunately they jump on a bus bound for the similar sounding Beit Hatikva, which turns out to be a tiny desert community with a single cafe. Here they meet forthright cafe owner Dina ( Ronit Elkabetz), who is at first a little hostile, then wryly amused, and finally vampishly seductive. ‘‘ There is no Arab culture, no Israeli culture, no culture at all,’’ she tells a perplexed Tawfiq. My only quibble with this slow-paced gem is that you have to wait until the credits roll to hear the band play together.
EXTRAS: Interview; trailer
Madman ( 85 minutes) $ 29.95