Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Honarpisheh AKA The Actor (1993)

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 »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Sokout AKA The Silence (1998)

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Quote:
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 »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Salaam Cinema (1995)

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Synopsis:
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.

Review:
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 »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – The Gardener (2012)

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Synopsis:
The Gardener is a surreal film made using documentary-style techniques via the cameras of father and son (the Makhmalbafs) who go to Israel to learn about a religion (Baha’i faith) that they don’t know much due to its taboo status in the country of both the filmmaker and the faith’s birth – Iran. Read More »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Nassereddin Shah, Actor-e Cinema AKA Once Upon a Time, Cinema (1992)

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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 »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Scream of the Ants (2006)

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Plot Synopsis from allmovie:
As a newlywed couple boards a train bound for India and are forced to reconcile atheism and faith in director Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s spiritual-themed drama. He is a non-believer that is consumed by doubt, and she has faith that life’s answers will come to her through prayer. Though there is little that this newlywed couple can agree upon — including the prospect of having children — they do love each other and are intent upon sharing a spiritual honeymoon. In the midst of a philosophical debate, a holy man on the tracks forces the train to grind to a halt. While the local beggars revere the man for his power over the imposing locomotives, the truth is much less mystical. Years ago the man failed in committing suicide on the tracks when the oncoming train saw him and slowed down. These days he is compelled by the beggars to reenact the “miracle” daily so that the train will stop and they can collect alms from the passengers. Read More »

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Dastforoush AKA The Peddler (1987)

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The Peddler
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
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