The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Features  |  Reviews
Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Persian gulf

Bridging it at the ‘Festival of Films from Iran’
By PETER KEOUGH  |  November 7, 2007

UNFINISHED STORIES: Pourya Azarbayjani weaves three tales with subtle and sometimes illuminating threads.

“Festival of Films from Iran” | Museum of Fine Arts: November 9-24
Another “Festival of Films from Iran” opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Bush Administration still hasn’t started bombing Tehran. George and company had better hurry up, because, to judge from its movies, the country is closer to developing American culture than it is to developing a nuclear bomb.

What, for example, could be more American than promoting indigenous products and denigrating foreign competition? Some of the 15 episodes in PERSIAN CARPET (2007; November 9 at 8 pm) — a compendium of shorts by leading Iranian directors reflecting on the title artwork — play like infomercials: a paean to a leading carpet manufacturer, a parable about a traditional weaver unmoved by a friend’s insistence that he relocate to a knockoff factory in China where he can make real money. But others are dazzling miniatures, as visually beautiful, evocative, and emblematic as details from the rugs themselves. My favorite is Majid Majidi’s “A Handmade Gift Presented to a Friend,” in which an old weaver waits outside his pal’s house in the city to unfurl the jewel-like carpet he’s made as a gift for him. Drawn by crumbs he drops from his lunch, birds alight on the carpet, mirroring the woven birds in the fabric.

In addition to these gorgeous carpets, 5000 years of Iranian culture have also given birth to Ahmad Reza Motamedi’s RULE OF THE GAME (2007; November 24 at 4:15 pm). This is the first Iranian comedy I’ve ever seen, and it’s a cultural shock. Not because it’s strange but because it’s familiar — despite the incomprehensible plot, the headscratching non sequiturs, and the garbled subtitles (“Once I had a headache he gave me an ‘E’ and I exploded so much I thought I was Cinderella” might well be a knee slapper in the original Farsi), I felt at home. In part that’s because I recognized the theme music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Rocky, and The Godfather on the soundtrack. But mostly it was because some things are universal, like bad taste and dumb-ass comedies.

Yes, this is the kind of movie in which a guy knocks somebody out by sticking a smelly foot in his face. Not to mention the pie fight and an egregious blackface routine straight out of the Three Stooges. But it’s worth watching if only for the social insights. A patriarch has fathered both a snooty clan of rich people and an inbred gang of criminals and losers; the latter get the upper hand, of course. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the populism that helped elect President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Not only are the Iranians knocking off our bad movies, they seem to be imitating the artsy ones as well, like Paul Haggis’s slick, multi-narrative Crash. More likely, however, Jafar Panahi’s The Circle provided the inspiration for Pourya Azarbayjani’s moving, elegantly constructed and ambiguous UNFINISHED STORIES (2007; November 23 at 8:30 pm). Story #1 starts with a teenage girl planning to run away with a boy whose rich parents disapprove of her; #2 involves a woman whose husband has thrown her out because she’s pregnant; #3 takes up the plight of a new mother who’s about to lose her baby because her husband is in prison and she can’t pay her hospital bill. Avoiding contrivance, Azarbayjani weaves these tales with subtle, sometimes illuminating threads, and the conclusion is an epiphany worthy of Krzysztof Kieslowski.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: Sin city, Girls, girls, girls, Dream on, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Movies, Abbas Kiarostami,  More more >
| More

Share this entry with Delicious
    No matter how far he strays, Richard Linklater's heart remains in Texas.
  •   REVIEW: THE DICTATOR  |  May 16, 2012
    Though his PR campaign might suggest otherwise, Sacha Baron Cohen has actually made (with director Larry Charles) a sweet movie, not unlike Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator , if less sentimental.
  •   REVIEW: THE HUNTER  |  May 17, 2012
    Apparently extinct since the 1930s, the Tasmanian Tiger resembled an uncanny assortment of mismatched parts from other animals. Daniel Nettheim's film is equally weird and motley.
    In Nuri Bilge Ceylan's minimalist "Eastern," the Leone-esque title seems ironic, as a team of bumbling investigators spend hours driving through the Anatolian wasteland searching for the grave of a murder victim.
  •   REVIEW: SOUND OF MY VOICE  |  May 10, 2012
    You've got to hand it to Brit Marling when it comes to audacious premises, both in Another Earth (in which she starred and co-wrote with director Mike Cahill), and in this high concept sci-fi head-scratcher, in which she also stars and co-wrote with director Zal Batmanglij.

 See all articles by: PETER KEOUGH

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2012 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group