In this meditation on the history of cinema, contemporary scenes blend with clips from the silent era. A cinematographer (Mehdi Hashemi) consults with the shah of Iran (Ezzatollah Entezami) in an attempt to convince him that cinema is beautiful. Movies are censored, however: the shah bans them himself. But when the shah falls in love with a beautiful silent-film actress (Fatemah Motamed-Aria), he forfeits the throne and crosses into the realm of the movie screen to be with his love. Read More »
Consisting of three separate stories, the director explores “Man” as a theme: birth, life and death, to present a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic portrait of life at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.
Review by Jonathan Rosenbaum:
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. Read More »
The President is the story of a dictator of an imaginary country in the Caucasus, who is forced to escape following a coup d’état, and begins a journey to discover his country in the company of his five-year-old grandson. The two travel across the lands that the President once governed. Now, disguised as a street musician to avoid being recognized, the former dictator comes into contact with his people, which he comes to know from a different point of view. Read More »
The wife of Nasim, an Afghan immigrant in Iran, is gravely ill. He needs money to pay for her care, but his day labor digging wells does not pay enough. A friend connects Nasim to a two-bit promoter who sells tickets to watch Nasim ride a bicycle continuously for a week. The promoter brings in sick and aged spectators, haranguing them to find hope in Nasim’s strength. Aided by his son, who feeds him as he rides, Nasim grinds out the days and shivering nights. Local officials believe this may be a plot and Nasim may be a spy; they try to sabotage him as do those who bet he won’t finish the week. Will desperation alone get Nasim the money? Is any triumph an illusion? Read More »
An Iranian actor named Akbar is trying to become a serious actor instead of the clown everyone considers him to be. However financial problems force him to abandon his dream of being an artistic actor. He also has to deal with his family problems and his wife’s inability to become pregnant. Read More »
The Silence (Sokhout), a startlingly fresh and elegant work, is about a ten-year-old boy, Khorshid, who is blind. Khorshid’s father, in Russia, has abandoned him and his mother, who in order to sustain their existence fishes in the river on which the rural dwelling that includes their threadbare apartment is situated. This woman has no other choice but to rely on Khorshid’s meager income for rent. It is not enough, however, and in a few days’ time they will be evicted by the landlord, a greedy, powerful presence whom we never see except for, once, as a hand knocking at the door. A strange, elliptical film of haunting, limpid visual beauty, The Silence ends with two events: the eviction, as the mother, who is calling for her son, and her one great possession, a wall mirror, symbolic for art and inspiration, that is, humanity’s spirit, are rowed across the river, the mirror’s reflection in the water symbolically linking human spirituality and Nature; and the boy, as usual off on his own, passing forever into a life of the imagination in which he is able to orchestrate sounds in his environment—to which his blindness has made him acutely sensitive and receptive—into a finished piece, one in fact familiar to us as the opening movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Only a fool could miss the social and political implications of such a film, and the government, not at all fooled in this regard, responded brusquely. The Silence was banned in Iran. Read More »
Makhmalbaf puts an advertisement in the papers calling for an open casting for his next movie. However when hundreds of people show up, he decides to make a movie about the casting and the screen tests of the would-be actors.
A seminal film for Makhmalbaf (it laid the foundations for Moment of Innocence) and a key film for Iran’s new cinema. In 1994, to celebrate the medium’s upcoming centenary, Makhmalbaf placed an ad for aspiring movie actors in a newspaper. Five thousand people of all ages showed up (this opens with scenes of the riot) and the resulting film is a highly selective compilation of episodes from the screen tests. It packs a lot into 70 minutes. It’s a spot-sample of Iranian society in 1994, noting the rise of assertive young women. There’s a wry perspective on Khomeini’s revolution (note the man who trades on his prison friendship with Makhmalbaf to ask favours for his sons). There are reflections on cinephilia, from the idiots who think they look like Hollywood stars or want to show off their macho gunplay to the would-be actor who pretends to be blind and claims to be able to ‘feel’ the films he sits through. And there’s Makhmalbaf deconstructing the film-making process: acting the directorial bully, then watching others (women!) emulate his bullying. Read More »