Sunday, August 23, 2015

Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema

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From his earliest films to the recently acclaimed The Past (which I disliked), director Asghar Farhadi has followed two existing traditions within Iranian cinema: the socially conscious realist family melodramas of the 1990s and the gritty street films of the 1970s. Though this has given his work a sense of familiarity for Iranian audiences, Farhadi has nevertheless stood out for his breathtakingly rigorous cinematic style. Outside of Iran, where these cinematic traditions are little known, Farhadi’s work appears even more audacious and captivating.

Farhadi gained widespread attention in his home country with the release of Fireworks Wednesday, but his international breakthrough came with A Separation. The latter also marked a shift in the way his audiences inside and outside Iran entered into dialogue. The Iranians, who had been generally apathetic to westerners’ regard for Abbas Kiarostami, suddenly started monitoring, through an almost systematic process of news updates and translations, all that was said and written about Farhadi abroad.

On the night of the Oscars in 2012, documented in From Iran, A Separation (Kourosh Ataee, Azadeh Moussavi, 2013), millions of eyes in Iran were locked on TVs connected to illegal satellites, broadcasting the ceremony live, as if they were watching a national sporting match. Farhadi, as if aware of his sudden stature, turned the occasion into an opportunity for international conciliation in his acceptance speech. Since the live broadcast of the presidential election debates in Iran in 2009, this was the first collective viewing experience for the nation, a ceremony which was perceived as a dialogue between Iran and the US.

Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema (The Critical Press, 2014) is the first English book about the filmmaker, written by critic Tina Hassannia whom I interviewed recently for Fandor.

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

 از يادداشت‌هاي من بر ده فيلم برگزيده منتقدان ايراني در شمارۀ 400 ماهنامۀ «فيلم»
آواز در باران: آن دم كه رويا مسلط مي‌شود

در رأی گیری شمارۀ 400 تنها موزیکالی که به اتفاق آراء بالاتر از بقیۀ فیلم‌های ژانر خود قرار گرفته بود (و حتی تا آخرین لحظات جمع‌بندی آراء جزو دو فیلم اول قرار داشت) آواز در باران بود. نقدي كه بازلي كراوتر در زمان خود  در نيويورك تايمز نوشته پس از اشاراتي بي‌حوصله به يكي دو نكته "بامزه" فيلم، از جين كلي و استنلي دانن به عنوان كارگردانان اين "نمايش" (شو) ياد كرده است. اين نمونه‌اي است از برخورد منتقدان با موزيكال‌هاي بزرگ مترو در زمان خودشان. مايه‌ي شگفتي است راهي كه طي شده تا فيلم‌هايي مانند آواز در باران نه تنها جدي گرفته شده، بلكه به عنوان الگويي از سينماي ناب ستايش شوند.
با آن كه تمام آوازهاي فيلم، به جز دو تاي آن‌ها، تكراري بود، ساختار تازه، انرژي بي‌پايان و مجموعه‌اي درخشان از بازيگران و رقاصان و صحنه‌پردازي‌ها به اين موزيكالِ موزيكال ها رنگ و بويي ديگر مي‌دهد. شايد يكي از جسورانه‌ترين كارهاي كلي و دانن، انتخاب دبي رينولدز و دانالد اوكانر باشد. دبی رینولدز 19 ساله (که در رقابتي تنگانگ لسلی کارون و جین پاول را برای بازي در فيلم شكست داده بود) باید هر روز ساعت چهار صبح سوار اتوبوس شده و تا استودیو سه ماشین عوض می کرد تا اولین شانس بازیگری‌اش در سینما را به تجربه‌ای موفق بدل کند. او بعدها مصایب بازی در این فیلم و کنار آمدن با جین کلی سرسخت و كمي دیکتاتورمآب را به درد زایمان تشبیه کرد.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Night It Rained (Kamran Shirdel, 1967)

From my Iranian New Wave programme notes, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2015. -- EK

Iran, 1967 Regia: Kamran Shirdel
T. int.: The Night It Rained or the Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy. Scen.: Esmaeel Noori Ala, Kamran Shirdel. F.: Naghi Maasoumi. M.: Fatemeh Dorostian. Int.: Nosratollah Karimi (narrator/interviewer). Prod.: The Ministry of Culture.

Shirdel and cameraman Naghi Maasoumi on the set
This satirical documentary film offers a crash course in 1960s Iran. A newspaper story of a heroic village boy who prevented a train disaster appears and spreads quickly. The incident, reported on and challenged by local officials and journalists, is soon doubted and leads ultimately to confusion, with nobody knowing exactly who has saved whom.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Simple Event (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1973)

From my Iranian New Wave programme notes, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2015. -- EK

Iran, 1973 Regia: Sohrab Shahid Saless
T. int.: A Simple Event. Scen.: Sohrab Shahid Saless (uncredited), Omid Rouhani (uncredited). F.: Naghi Maasoumi. M.: Kazem Rajinia. Int.: Mohammad Zamani, Anne Mohammad Tarikhi, Habibullah Safarian, Hedayatullah Navid, Majid Baghaie. Prod.: Sazman-e Cinemaie Keshvar.

A few days in the life of a young boy living by the Caspian Sea. At school he is falling behind his classmates and almost expelled. He helps his father to fish illegally, and at home watches as his mother’s health deteriorates.

original poster

Sohrab Shahid Saless’s debut feature was made clandestinely with the budget and crew assigned to him for a short film by the government-run Sazman-e Cinemaie Keshvar, for whom he had previously made around 20, mostly uncredited shorts. The film was shot in Bandar Shah. Saless, who admired Chekov, chose the location for its “Russian-looking” atmosphere and the fact that it was at the end of the railroad – at a dead end, like the lives of his characters. Mohammad Zamani, who had never been to a cinema, plays the young boy and one can feel the weight of the world on his frail shoulders. Mysteriously quiet and empty, the film’s characters are apparently devoid of any feeling, yet still capable of making an enormous emotional impact on the audience.