2 posts categorized "Iranian Cinema"

June 18, 2016


Taste of CherryWriter/director Abbas Kiarostami’s “Taste of Cherry” is a divisive film. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1997 despite being savaged by critics such as Roger Ebert whose staggering miscomprehension of the film exposed his knee-jerk tendency toward small-mindedness.

Likewise, critics who overpraised “Taste of Cherry” as a masterpiece did a disservice to a movie whose personalized quest for Iran’s soul is scaled to fit within the country’s governmentally decreed rules for films made within its borders. Kiarostami executes a filmic social study that digs deep into the public and private psyche of Iran’s male populace via the age-old query that Shakespeare elegantly distilled into, “to be or not to be; that is the question.”

Homayon Ershadi gives a haunting performance as Mr. Badii, a wealthy middle-aged man at the end of his rope. He drives around the outskirts of Tehran in search of a man who will agree to partake in his suicidal experiment. Mr. Badii offers 200,000 tomans (six months' worth of average wages) to the person who will come to a grave he has dug along a mountain range roadside, on the very next morning, to see if he is alive or dead. If after calling Mr. Badii’s name twice, he doesn’t respond, the entrusted man is to cover Badii’s body in “20 shovels of dirt.” The unsavory proposition becomes a repeated mantra that the filmmaker uses as a provocation to get at an ethical identity. It is a polemic game rigged to raise important questions about the nature of existence.

Mr. Badii drives around in a Range Rover, inside which most of the movie is filmed. We drink in Iran’s parched, alien, landscape through the car’s expansive windshields as invisible passengers searching for meaning, or at least some sense of familiarity. Visual beauty is strictly absent from Kiarostami’s framing. The car’s restricted boxy atmosphere creates an intimate, if claustrophobic, place for our distressed protagonist to question his survival against the mirror of divergent men who each articulate their personal moral boundaries in vastly different ways.


Badii’s first passenger is a young Kurdish fighter (Safar Ali Moradi) with whom he attempts to bond over their shared experience as soldiers. Badii affectionately remembers his days spent in disciplined training with other soldiers. Counting aloud together provides common ground. Homosexual overtones pervade Badii’s conversation.

Next is an Afghan seminarian student (Mir Hossein Noori) whose Muslim beliefs prevent him from taking part in Badii’s ominous request. He says, “God entrusts man’s body to him. Man must not torment that body.” Badii replies that his profound unhappiness will harm other people.

Finally, Mr. Badii comes across an Azeri taxidermy professor (Abdolrahman Bagheri) who solemnly agrees to comply with his wishes.

The narrative twist that Kiarostami uses to invert the film’s ending is a deconstructionist embellishment worthy of Jean-Luc Goddard. The audience is brought full circle in a cinematic reality that invites us to question our own place in a world dependent on others.

Not Rated. 95 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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February 24, 2012


This is Not a FilmFacing almost certain jail time, and exiled to his apartment under a government-imposed house arrest and ban from making films, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi records a day of his existence with the help of a cameraman named Mirtahmasb. Some of the film was shot on an iPhone. The experimental result certainly meets the demands of its title.

There is no storyline or even much of a plot except that of the external forces that threaten to come crashing into Panahi’s elegant apartment at any moment. A giant crane from a nearby construction site passes uncomfortably close to our subject’s face as he waters plants on his balcony. His pet iguana Igi likes to dig his claws into Panahi as he uses his master’s t-shirt covered chest as a ladder to gain higher ground on the couch where Panahi looks on his laptop and drinks tea. A DVD copy of the lame thriller “Buried” sits prominently on a shelf as an ironic commentary on the situation at hand.

He's Jafar Panahi, but 'This Is Not a Film' - The New York Times

Bored to distraction, Jafar Panahi uses some of the time to tell the camera the story of a film he wasn’t allowed to make. Talk about grace under pressure. Using tape to mark out a girl’s bedroom on a large carpet, the filmmaker slips into a kind of directorial reverie that doesn’t translate very well. Upset at the limitations of his attempt at storytelling, he allows himself to be distracted by thinks like phone calls with his attorney about his appeal against a six-year prison sentence.

Carlos Aguilar on Twitter: "Quick reminder that the best movie about being  forcefully trapped inside your home has already been made: Jafar Panahi's  THIS IS NOT A FILM.… https://t.co/5bDx0sjw9I"

Smuggled out of Iran on a USB hidden inside a cake sent to the Cannes Film Festival as a last-minute submission, “This Is Not a Film” is a rough document of life in Iran from the perspective of a persecuted intellectual. The fireworks that punctuate the night sky could easily be mistaken for gunfire. More than a clandestine documentary, “This Is Not a Film” is a revolutionary act. Hopefully, it won’t be his last.

This Is Not a Film | dafilms.com

Not Rated. 75 mins.

4 Stars

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