A bone-dry Palestinian satirist and film teacher, Elia Suleiman comes from a region where political laughs are carefully apportioned. So his rare movies---three features in 15 years---are reasons for glee. Perhaps the best way to sell The Time That Remains (and Suleiman's Tati-like sense of visual absurdity) is to cop his episodic style and simply describe one perfect doodle: A hipster Arab paces back and forth on a cell call, enthusing about a new dance tune. Meanwhile, an Israeli tank follows his head with its enormous turret: back, forth, back, forth. Call it overkill, vigilance or a genius editorial.
The rest of the movie is peppered with like-minded gags, though it would be a mistake to dismiss this writer-director as glib. (Humor might be the only sane response.) Suleiman can be criticized for failing, ever so slightly, at crafting an overall structure---his latest, based on his dad's diary and other memories, is an autobiographical story of exile and return that skips like a stone over water, fleetly but not so deeply. Still, this is a welcome example of kitsch wedded to serious indictment: Who knew that high-school screenings of Spartacus had such insidious purpose?