For those purist cineasts who rue the advent of sound, the new film from the Nazarine Jacques Tati, Elia Suleiman, IT MUST BE HEAVEN, must seem like heaven.
Although technically not, IT MUST BE HEAVEN is tantamount to a silent film, as film maker Suleiman tries to make sense of the world in surreal imagery and minimalist dialogue.
IT MUST BE HEAVEN begins in Nazareth with a Christian rite in full procession, a ritual knocking on heaven’s door, that goes awfully awry. The sequence of incense swinging, cross carrying solemnity has nothing narratively to do with the rest of the picture. Or does it?
Suleiman is such a droll storyteller, a jousting joker and redoubtable riddler, that part of the pleasure of watching his pictures is picking up on the pieces of the puzzle.
After a series of seemingly banal encounters with his neighbours in Nazareth, Suleiman exits Palestine bound for Paris. It is July and he finds himself in the city on France’s national day, where tanks rumbling through the streets are odds with the patented image of lovers romantically roaming the boulevards.
There’s a bizarre pas de deux between two preening policemen while a member of the public publicly bares his member, flagrantly flouting the law. The key stone for these cops is primping of the uniform rather than keeping the peace.
From Paris, Suleiman flies to New York, where he tries to get finance for a film project and although receiving support from the actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, the producer finds his project not Palestinian enough. There’s more kooky cop capers in Central Park and a not so subtle scenario of America’s love of the gun.
Adroitly droll and puzzlingly fascinating, THIS MUST BE HEAVEN is both amusing and bemusing, a jigsaw with missing pieces that the audience is invited to find for themselves.
Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell on You and Leonard Cohen’s Darkness are part of the cracker soundtrack, the music and lyrics adding textured layers to the absurd antics.
IT MUST BE HEAVEN is an entertainingly perplexing slice of paradise.