"When you are Palestinian it is easier for people to say you are subversive. I don’t think that there is anything subversive about a movie where a family takes a certain route that is both personal and intimate. Nor is there anything cruel in it, apart from the cruelty of life in a certain locale. What I show in the film is history. It is fact. It is not subversive at all." Suleiman interview, Sight & Sound 4.5 stars
Suleiman filters the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through his father's diary in the first part and his own weird perception of the current state of things in the second. And this estrangement is transposed with a surreal and naive style that can be placed between Kaurismaki and Tati but without their talent. Some scenes boil down to stylized vignettes.
Suleiman begins his autobiographical story in a time before his birth, and when he is present in the last chapter it is as silent observer (bar one incredible moment of defiance). The effect suggests a life that is not governed by free will, as those overseen by colonialist forces rarely are. Even within parameters of tight framing and control Suleiman's film is a work of resistance on his terms.
Is this supposed to be funny? I didn't find it funny at all. And it's all much too detached. I miss feelings, empathy, depth of character. Some critics see similarities between Suleiman's work and that of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. It's true I noticed some boring Tati imitation and it's also true that the director looks a bit like Buster Keaton. But while Keaton was a genius Suleiman is just an imitator.
C'est en donnant aux événements et situations virtuellement dramatiques, une configuration cocasse et décalée ou visuellement esthétique et picturale utilisant un comique à répétition, entre ubuesque constat d'impuissance et profond désarroi existentiel que le cinéaste dresse l'amère cartographie d'une nation en miettes, profondément en désarroi avec un humour ravageur www.cinefiches.com
An impeccably taut comedic masterwork - dry, deadpan, absurdist - surveying, with wit, restraint, distance, the farce (and horror) of Nakba, Israeli occupation, and the resulting (il)logical extensions (e.g. "present absentees", or the somehow both "Jewish and democratic" state...) Scathing, dignified, full of understated tenderness. Plus badass pole vault over the West Bank Wall. Wonderful cinema.
I'll admit I didn't fully understand everything which went on in the film, which is why I suppose I didn't really like it. At times I found it was trying too hard to be funny, which got me irritated and therefore felt even more distanced. I'd recommend reading into it more prior to watching then maybe you'll have a more enjoyable experience than I did.