Saturday, January 10, 2015

Is PARADISE NOW?

Hany Abu-Assad's PARADISE NOW is a film I intentionally put of reviewing for some time, even after multiple viewings, because of my own feeling that I would not be able to do the text justice until I got to the point I am at now, having taken in a selection of both Palestinian and Israeli cinemas both released before and after this film was nominated for an Oscar.  In general, I feel a bit more confident in labeling this film as first and foremost a very black comedy akin to Altman's MASH.  Consider the two images below.
The entire film is laced with pitch-black moments of hilarity.  And by taking that stance, it is also able to engage in a no-holds-barred critique of the figures in Palestinian society Abu-Assad views with contempt as hypocrites and frauds, most specifically the leaders of the suicide bombers who choose who will live and die, where and when, how and why, never volunteering themselves for martyrdom.  The two friends are not specifically religious in any real sense, they are just two young aimless and disenfranchised men living in abject poverty.  One gets the sense that they would just as soon see their repression ended by other means, be it diplomatic or otherwise.
There is a substantial thread throughout the film dealing with intertextuality vis-a-vis the genre of Palestinian death videos.  First, the two characters go through a very comedic sequence where their proud, dramatic suicide message videos are delayed by a faulty camcorder.  Later on, when getting a watch repaired, the other end, the distribution side, is examined.  The watchmaker rents or sells videos of both collaborators and suicide bombers giving testimony before death.
Abu-Assad's OMAR, as I mentioned when I wrote my essay on that film, is very close in style and pacing to Hitchcock, but in his more mature phase when he made PSYCHO.  Here I am more reminded of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, especially the comedic sexual dynamics underlying the relationship between the antagonist and protagonist.

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