Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dailies#15: Road Trip, Brown to Blue

These photos are taken by me during a road trip in northern Iran, starting from Chalus, near Caspian Sea, driving up the Alborz mountain, and then descending the Haraz toward Tehran. The date is January 7, 2011.


Monday, October 28, 2013

On Bridges-Go-Around (1958)

Bridges-Go-Around (1958), made by one of the forerunner Jazz Film artists of all time, Shirley Clarke, is a short film, or more precisely two shorts in one. Composed of a series of shots from New York bridges, the film, in its first half, is edited and synced with the music of Teo Macero. For the second half, the very same images, as the first half, are repeated, but this time they are accompanied by the electronic music of Louis and Bebe Barron. So Bridges-Go-Around is a film which is played twice, but each projection, thanks to specific effects created by each musical genre, gives a distinctive impression and even the meaning of the images change and assiduously contrast/complete/comment on the other half. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Journey Through Iranian Cinema with Mark Cousins


Last year I made a documentary about Iranian cinema through the refreshing eyes of Mark Cousins. A Journey Through Iranian Cinema with Mark Cousins is a small road movie about Iranian cinema and Mark's multiple journeys to my country that thanks to my good friend Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa (and John Sinno of Typecast Films) was distributed in North America and recently was shown in two film festivals in Canada (Toronto) and the US (my favorite unvisited city, New Orleans).

Now the good news is that the film will be screened at the University of London's SOAS, on the last day of October, followed by a Q&A with me and Mark (on Skype from Scotland). I'm shy, moody and not a good talker, but I'm sure Mark has many stories to tell from his various trips to Iran and his interviews and films with and about filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Mohsen and Samira Makhmalbaf and many more.

You would find more information on SOAS' website.

Hope to see you there!

Ehsan

Pandora's Tape: Beckett, Pinter and Cinephilia

بكت، پينتر و سينه‌فيليا
جعبۀ پاندورا

آخرين نوار كِرپ، مطالعه‌اي در حافظه، تنهايي و مرگ، عنوان نمايش‌نامه‌اي از ساموئل بكت (1958) و آخرين نقش‌آفرينيِ هرولد پينتر، به عنوان بازيگر، در مقابل دوربين تلويزيون (2006) است. پينتر نقش پيرمرد 69 ساله‌اي را بازي مي‌كند كه در روز تولدش نوارهاي صداي خودش را كه در سال‌هاي دور ضبط كرده دوباره گوش مي‌كند. نوارها را زير و رو مي‌كند. يادداشت‌هايش را كه پوستۀ سفيد كاغذشان حالا به قهوه‌اي مي‌زند اين ور و آن ور مي‌كند. سعي مي‌كند از شنيدن آن‌ها طفره برود و پشت ميز بزرگ كافكايي‌اش بي‌تحرك بماند، درست مثل ژان لويي ترنتينيانِ عشق، بعد از مرگ امانوئل ريوا. كرپ بي‌تحرك مي‌ماند، اما پخش نوارها تصاويري دردناك از گذشته را جلوي چشمش رژه مي‌برند. آن‌چه در اين نوارها ترسناك است، شور زندگي است كه حالا به خاكستر نشسته و از آن ترسناك‌تر حضور عميق و فاجعه‌بار عدم‌رضايت يا دلزدگي از خود است. كرپ 69 ساله با تحقير از كرپ 39 ساله ياد مي‌كند و در نوار صداي كرپ 39 ساله او كرپِ نوجوان ايده‌آليست و خواب‌زده را نكوهش مي‌كند.
پينتر حضوري با ابهت و بيم‌ناك در اين تله‌تئاتر دارد، شايد به خاطر ايمان و عشقش به بكت كه به قول خودش هر چه بيش‌تر اين ايرلندي دماغش را در لجن فرو مي‌كند، بيش‌تر از او سپاسگذار مي‌شود. شايد درون شخصيت كرپ اين خود پينتر باشد كه با وقوف به مرگ قريب‌الوقوعش از سرطان و در قدم‌هاي لنگ‌لنگانش حول و حوش گور با صراحتي به تلخي و بُرندگي زبانِ بكتْ زندگي‌اش و فضاي تهي و سياه عظيم پشت سرش را پيش از عزيمت به تهي و سياهِ پيش‌ِ رو مرور مي‌كند.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cinephilia Translated, Part 3

Hitchcock/Truffaut in Farsi: 4th edition (out of six or seven)

For the previous posts [here and here] about translating Anglo-American or French film culture in Iran, I mostly focused on journals. Now I would elaborate more on the unauthorized translation of the major and minor film books.

The rules of the game are more or less similar to those of journals. The names who make it to the translations are a combination of current trends (Slavoj Žižek), cult figures (Jean-Luc Godard) and the essential texts (David Bordwell/Kristin Thompson).

The translators are whether the per-revolutionary cinephiles, now trying to retain the memories of a cinephilic haven via written text, or a new generation of one-off, clandestine translators who are often young university graduates, showing their passion for a filmmaker or writer by translating them. The latter group always starts on its own, without having a contract or handshake with the publisher, and of course with no guarantee on publishing the finished work or passing the labyrinth of censorship.

Is there any financial motivation behind this? Based on some statistics, personal observations and conversations with those who do it, I would say no, at least, for the translator who is always the sole driving force behind this cultural reproduction. The publishing industry in any format, whether book or journal, has been one of the key victims of the post-sanction Iran, if not mentioning the ruined economy of Ahmadinejad's Iran. During the eight year of Ahmadinejad's presidency, the systematic rape of the culture was facilitated by eliminating subsidies to the cultural products. One of the first outcomes was a sudden increase in the price of paper. This affected the publishing industry to the extent that the number of book readers went down the lowest in recent history.

To make sure that the publishers are completely defeated, censor was tightened to its most suffocating in recent memory. "We specialize in art and literature," says Farkhondeh Hajizadeh, an Iranian writer and publisher, "that's exactly the area that's problematic for officials, not physics and chemistry. Our books have been either banned, or they have faced censorship after a year, or they remain suspended." [1] In addition to that, just recently, the licence of some of the publishers who had expertise in publishing film books, like Nashr-e Cheshmeh, was suspended or revoked. This new decision by censorship was similar to what happened to Jafar Panahi: it's better to dry the fountain rather than monitoring and censoring every drop of water coming out of it. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cinephilia Translated, Part 2


Last week I wrote about the phenomenon of translating film literature in Iran, a practice that covers anything from film criticism to academic books and papers. I tried to explain how readers in Iran are accustomed to reading the critique of a well-known Iranian writer, next to those of New York Times', Sight & Sound's or Film Comment's. I argued that the tradition has roots in an particularly Iranian pluralism and unlike the government of countries in which the original pieces have been produced, the juxtaposition of the translated and the original stages a dialogue, even if the authors really haven't planned as such.

Here I like to point to paradoxes (or even ironies) of translating film culture in Iran which I always have associated with the culture of opposition.

For an Iranian cinephile this trend basically means reading about a cinema which is not seen, cannot be seen (or at least, cannot easily be seen or accessed), hence the text substitutes the image. One reads about good or great films in which the text describes significant shots, the summary tells you about the story, the interviews tell you how these films are made, but the actual piece of work is largely absent from the picture. Hereby, the reader/cinephile's role begins: she/he has to re-imagine the film and mentally construct it and the film literature serves as the means of such reconstruction. Consequently, first comes the context and sub-text and then (if you're lucky enough) the Text. Mostly, the access to Text remains impossible and the context becomes the Text itself. Thus the people who portray films in written text, i.e. film writers and critics, become as significant as filmmaker. Under these circumstances, the role of a film critic is elevated to the second author of the film, an intermediary who, in a written text, recreates the filmic pleasures for the reader. In Iran, spectator is the reader. The image is read.