Plot: Earning his keep at a photography studio where he also sleeps, an orphan aspires to be closer to the object of his affection, an older girl from a higher social class.
An adolescent boy, old for his years like so many of Kiarostami’s (or Iran’s) working children, juggles a job as a photographer’s assistant, a first crush, and the urge to sample adulthood’s temptations (cigarettes and movies). This beautiful exercise in storytelling virtually without words is shot with the crispness and stark contrasts of Kiarostami’s still photography. But this vista teems with humanity—not only that of the boy, who is essentially without family (he sleeps at the photography lab), but of the adults he encounters (and who invariably let him down) on the urban pathways he courses. In his young actor, Kiarostami found a face and soul made for the screen. —Judy Bloch Continue reading
An impressive, often powerful Iranian feature (1987, 95 min.) by Mohsen Makhmalbaf—who started out as an antishah activist and fiction writer—composed of three sketches dealing with the poor in Tehran (1987). The first, freely adapted from an Alberto Moravia story, follows the appalling misadventures of an impoverished couple with four crippled children as they try to get their fifth and latest child adopted, in the hope that she won’t wind up crippled as well. The second follows the equally pathetic life of a scatterbrained, spastic Jerry Lewis type who devotes his life to caring for his aged and senile mother. (The couple from the first part reappear briefly in this episode.) The third part, shot in film noir style, is largely devoted to the grim fantasies of a clothes peddler who’s afraid of being killed by fellow traffickers. Each episode has a different cinematographer and all are shot very adroitly and fluidly, though the more self-conscious stylistics of the third part sit rather oddly with the first two episodes, which are often much closer to neorealism. According to Makhmalbaf, the film as a whole deals with the three stages of existence—birth, “journey through life,” and death. Critic Gerald Peary has compared the film to Rossellini’s Paisan, and it’s certainly true that the first episode is as wrenching as anything in that film or in Germany, Year Zero. In Farsi with subtitles. By Jonathan Rosenbaum
Review by Jonathan Rosenbaum
A 1989 film by Mohsen Makhmalbaf about the upsetting discoveries made by a shell-shocked veteran of the Iran-Iraq war after he returns to his job as a photojournalist in Tehran and to his fiancee, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. As in The Peddler, Makhmalbaf shows considerable talent and passion for dealing with the contradictions of contemporary Iranian life, and the restless and eclectic style of his direction makes this one of his most penetrating and disturbing works. In Farsi with subtitles. 75 min.
This one is also on Rosenbaum’s top 1000 list. Continue reading
Filmed on the Iran/Afghanistan border, KANDAHAR is a semi-documentary style movie that chronicles the perilous journey undertaken by an expatriate female journalist, Nafas, to reach the city of Kandahar, where she hopes to rescue her sister from committing suicide during an impending eclipse. However, Nafas’s odyssey is really little more than a device to lift the veil on the poverty and hardship of life in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Through a series of vignettes, the movie succeeds beautifully in revealing insights that are both fascinating and harrowing. It is almost impossible to imagine a culture so far removed from the relatively comfortable life enjoyed by more ‘civilised’ nations. Young boys rock back and forth, reciting the Koran while learning to become Mullahs, pausing only to recite the meaning and purpose of the sabre and semi-automatic machine gun when prompted by their teacher; young girls have lessons in how to resist the temptation to pick up possibly booby-trapped dolls; a doctor treats his female patient by speaking to them via children as they sit either side of a makeshift screen, and conducts his examinations through a small hole in the screen; the threat and consequences of land-mines pervade everybody’s life, and year-long waits for prosthetic legs are commonplace, so that prosthetics become a black-market currency. Continue reading
Mamo, an old and legendary Kurdish musician living in Iran, plans to give one final concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. After seven months of trying to get a permit and rounding up his ten sons, he sets out for the long and troublesome journey in a derelict bus, denying a recurring vision of his own death at half moon. Halfway the party halts at a small village to pick up female singer Hesho, which will only add to the difficulty of the undertaking, as it is forbidden for Iranian women to sing in public, let alone in the company of men. But Mamo is determined to carry through, if not for the gullible antics of the bus driver. Continue reading
Loneliness and isolation are a part of life for two mine keepers in a remote mountain town. Their only light of hope comes in the form of a small dog they find and an unknown woman they see walking in the distance. People enter and exit their lives, including a group of mine workers—but it is the very world they have created for themselves to deal with their loneliness that keeps others out. Nevertheless, they still ultimately find pleasure in the subtle and simple things of life.
Hamid Nematollah’s compelling drama “stakes out a new path for Iranian cinema” (Variety) as it exposes key problems plaguing modern-day Tehran. Johan is a gentle and thoughtful young man who works as a window dresser at a fashionable boutique. When a poor and very beautiful young girl enters his store, Johan feels compelled to steal a pair of blue jeans for her. This action triggers a downward spiral that will change Johan’s life forever. “Painfully real and engaging” (Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times).—Iran—2004—115 mins.