Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ziad Doueiri's THE INSULT opens, shortlisted for this year's Best Foreign Language Film

When Ziad Doueiri's The Attack hit theaters back in 2013, TrustMovies was impressed with everything about that film, from its concept and complexity to its execution and disquieting semi-resolution. Now comes this Lebanese filmmaker's latest and, if possible, even more impressive work, THE INSULT, which has already been shortlisted for this year's Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film. Along with The Square it is up there with the best I've seen for this past year. And it is also perhaps the most important.

What Mr. Doueiri, who directed and co-wrote (along with Joelle Touma) has to say goes to the heart of so much that is going on throughout our world today. Instead of moralizing, this supremely talented and generous filmmaker concocts an incident that sets individuals, a community and finally a small country on their ear and in the process explores the situation from angle after angle until we understand more than we ever imagined we might about the participants. (And they, praise be, have begun to better understand, in maybe the smallest of increments, each other and themselves.)

The Attack was set mostly in Israel and put us into the experience of a highly successful Arab-Israeli doctor who suddenly learns that his wife has killed herself, along with a number of others, in a suicide bombing. How he and his Israeli friends and co-workers respond to this is as complicated and often unnerving as you might guess.

Now, in The Insult, Doueiri returns to Lebanon and pits a Lebanese Christian (Adel Karam, above, left) against a Muslim Palestinian (Kamel El Basha, above, right) who, along with his wife, has taken refuge (as have so many other Palestinians) in Lebanon. The filmmaker's canvas opens up to explore Lebanese society and culture in ways and from angles that I doubt most of us have come anywhere close to previously seeing. It is eye-opening, to say the least.

The workplace, the justice system, family matters, history and much more is given us in a tightly-woven plot that avoids melodrama but manages to stay sharp and on course throughout. Most wonderfully, there are no villains here. Oh, you may imagine there are and perhaps feel quite some hatred for certain of the characters. But wait.

The great blessing Doueiri bestows upon us is to allow us to finally understand what his characters have experienced, while allowing them to do this, too. Don't worry. There are no huge "breakthroughs" or eureka! moments here. Yet the filmmaker's steady accretion of small, incremental information builds beautifully and believably to completion.

How Israel -- so often the main agenda but here seen sidelong -- plays into all of this is particularly unusual and gratifying. Like so much else that Doueiri manages, Israel, too, becomes something we must view in a different light.

I am obviously leaving out almost all reference to plot here because the manner in which the filmmaker gives this to us is simply too good -- too nuanced and surprising -- to ruin for you. Do yourself a favor and go see The Insult as soon as you're able -- and before you've read much more about it.

From Cohen Media Group, the movie -- in Arabic with English subtitles and running 112 minutes -- opens this Friday, January 12, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and The Quad, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. Elsewhere? Hope so, but I can't find any further playdates on the Cohen web site for the film.

No comments: