Sunday, October 19, 2014

What To Do with THE TIME THAT REMAINS (2009)?

Elia Suleiman has a much larger budget and wider canvas to paint.  The UK, Italy, Belgium,  and France all contributed to a $6,500,000 budget that is well-spent in narrating a semi-autobiographical story of a Christian Palestinian family's life from 1948 unto the 21st century.  However, Suleiman retains the key features of his cinematic motifs and mise en scene, utilizing sound design and motifs to the point some sections are akin to Chaplin or Buster Keaton.
Suleiman has always been a mature film maker, ignoring cinematic conventions in terms of narrative or camera movements.  He uses aperture framing and the geometry of right-angles to set up his shots in a manner similar to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, especially in ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974), another film that contemplated objectification and space around Oriental men and manhood in a Western society.   This film is also one that is interested in cinematic history.  The school children at one point are shown a screening of Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS (1960), a film that translated the original source novel from an analogue about class war into one dramatizing the Zionist struggle in secular terms that actor/producer Kirk Douglas wanted to dramatize.  A local youth walks the streets, whistling the themes from THE GODFATHER (1972) and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966).  The inter-textuality here and the way it is evoked with mere whistling is one of the director's finest moments.  The characters sitting on the sidewalk he passes by merely observe, dumbfounded, acknowledging the systemic violence they live under and how it functions.  On the one hand, the cowboy narrative and American Western history can be compared to the Nakba, especially the Cherokee's fate.  But on the other hand, the thuggish behavior is glossed over by the majority through the auspices of capitalist industry.  The Corleone family operates an illegitimate series of rackets under the auspices of Genco Olive Oil Co., just as the military-industrial complex is rendered unquestionable once inter-twined with multi-national capital.
This film is above all else a meditation on life, death, and the passage of time.  The final section of the film, featuring the Director himself as a character, is a ballet of life in motion.  Though set in the ordinary world, he creates an almost operatic element in the execution of the final act.

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