3 Faces (2019)

3-faces-2019-review.jpg

Direction: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Even facing a 20-year filmmaking ban imposed by the Iranian government, director Jafar Panahi continues to employ up-to-the-minute techniques as a mean to tell interesting stories, where the pivotal simplicity never discards any emotional peak or tension. He really knows how to blur the line between fiction and reality, and 3 Faces, the fourth film to be released under his filmmaking interdiction (the others were This Is Not a Film, Closed Curtain, and Taxi), is another step forward.

Panahi plays himself, as well as the popular actress Behnaz Jafari (Blackboards). The latter receives a startling video message from Marzieh Rezaei, a young actress wannabe from the rural Northwestern village of Saran, whose conservative family strictly opposes her going to Tehran to study acting. Impulsively, Jafari asks the director to drive her to that village in order to assure that nothing happened to the desperate girl. According to her loved ones, she had vanished three days before without a trace.

After discussing if the video was posteriorly edited or not, the pair experiences a reality that has nothing to do with their lives. Interesting happenings keep us alert - an elder woman lies down in the grave she just dug for herself; in a first phase, the villagers think the visitors are there to solve their gas and electricity problems; they learn that the village has more parables than inhabitants and have too many gardens but no doctors. In fact, these people are stuck in traditions and it's no wonder that Marzieh’s older brother considers her aspirations dishonorable.

3-faces-pic.jpg

During the investigative examination, there are some funny moments. I’m remembering when Panahi is forced to honk while driving to be given passage in a narrow road, or when he gets a phone call from his mother, who demands some attention and asks him about the rumors of a new film.

Ms. Jafari doesn’t know how to react. She feels scared for the girl, but at the same time dragged into a manipulation. There’s a moment she even suspects Panahi, who told her that his next film would be about a suicide case. While she is emotional, he is sober and rational, and that contrast works perfectly.

Panahi refuses to abandon his art; and if his film meditates about cultural tradition, it also works as a metaphor by targeting those who disregard artistic life, seeing it as a minor craft. He gets everything under control with his camera, which, observing quietly, inflicts a decent low-key treatment in a peculiar road movie marked by slightly intriguing moments. Who told you this wasn't the truth?

3meio.jpeg

The Salesman (2016)

the-salesman-2016

Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Country: Iran / France

Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian writer-director with a knack for profound dramas (“About Elly”, “A Separation”, “The Past”), returns with “The Salesman”, another heartfelt story branded with uncomfortable dualities. The nature of this tale, set and shot in Tehran, will make you ponder about what’s right and wrong, and confront you with a few moral questions that bear on justice, compassion, forgiveness, and retaliation.

Emad (Shahab Hosseini) is a well-liked teacher who shares a huge passion for theater with his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti). They star in Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman”, putting every drop of inspiration on their roles. Even in the play, they are husband and wife, impersonating Willy and Linda Loman.
The building where they live is about to collapse due to adjacent construction and structural deficiencies, forcing them to an immediate evacuation. With no place to go, they accept the help of a fellow actor, Babak (Babak Karimi), who finds them an apartment that just got unoccupied. The woman who lived there before had a bad reputation. She left all her belongings in the apartment due to some last-minute difficulties.

One night, while Rana was bathing, someone rings the buzz. Convinced it was Emad, who had left minutes before to go to the neighboring supermarket, she opens the door and returns to the bathroom. To her surprise, she’s violently assaulted by a stranger who, on the run, left a pair of socks on the floor, some money, and his car keys in the apartment.
Rana was taken to the hospital, returning emotionally debilitated, yet unwilling to report the case to the police. Not even the theater seems to help her to overcome the situation. However, little by little, she starts giving signs of recovery.

In turn, for better and for worse, Emad keeps trying to identify the offender through the pickup he left outside, elaborating a plan to have his revenge.
The final part brings revelations and resolutions that lead to a whirlwind of internal conflicts and emotions.

As habitual, Farhadi settles on a ferocious realism conveyed through a credible acting, intelligent narrative simplicity, and mordant irony. He became a true master in this nuanced passive-aggressive style.
The performances of Hosseini and Alidoosti, Farhadi’s frequent and reliable choices, are irreproachable as they were in previous works.
The Salesman” might not be as striking as “The Separation”, since it’s a slightly more manipulative, but is a powerful piece of cinema that authenticates Farhadi as the most predominant contemporary Iranian filmmaker.

Fireworks Wednesday (2016)

fireworks_wednesday

Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Country: Iran

Originally dated from 2006, “Fireworks Wednesday”, is a not-so-known major accomplishment from the celebrated filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi, one of the most acclaimed voices of the Iranian cinema. The Film Forum in New York recently retrieved his third feature, which was already revealing the filmmaker’s keen propensity for realism, as well as his capacity to devise potent family dramas that never feel vulgar and instantly occupy your eyes and mind with its deeply eloquent and susceptible environments.
The film, set in the contemporary Tehran on the Persian New Year, is an honest examination of marriage and infidelity in the very particular society where it takes place.

The central character is Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young woman who works for a cleaning agency and is about to get married to a man who’s crazy for her.
One day she’s assigned to clean the apartment of a married couple that is living an intractable marital crisis. The constant arguments between Mojdeh (Hediyeh Tehrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) are reflected in their apartment whose windows were broken the night before and where everything is placed upside down. The couple’s son, Amir Ali (Matin Heydarnia), is pretty compelling in showing the affliction derived from the distress of witnessing the state of disaffection that his parents fell into. Gradually, Rouhi starts to understand the anguish of Mojdeh who has reasons to believe that her husband is having an affair with the woman next door, Simin (Pantea Bahram), an independent mother who turned her apartment into a clandestine hair salon.
Confused, Rouhi is caught in the middle of the gossips and, by turns, is used by both wife and husband in their desperate schemes.

I don’t have enough laudable words to describe the magnificent performances, authentic dramatic acting lessons for the ones interested in learning the plainness of the art.
The camerawork is another glorious achievement by Mr. Farhadi who cohesively weaves the little fragments that seamlessly express the whole without wasting one single minute of our time. Every scene is meaningful and is there for a reason, allowing us to apprehend the story effortlessly.

Thoroughly absorbing, “Fireworks Wednesday” is anchored in the truthfulness of many men-women relationships. It's a powerful storytelling put up with brilliancy.

Taxi (2015)

Taxi (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Movie Review: One can wonder how is it possible that the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was sentenced by the authoritarian regime of his country to 20 years without making cinema, still manages to direct clandestine masterpieces with a disarming simplicity, emotional truthfulness, social-political awareness, and delightfully humorous situations. Well, my theory is the following: if you really love what you do and have something to say, there’s nothing that can stop you. After his professional banishment, Panahi has directed critically acclaimed films that mix reality and fiction, thoroughly mirroring what he was experiencing at each of those well-defined time slots of his existence. If “This is Not a Film” was a raw documentary that aimed to denounce the humiliating deprivations he was subjected to, “Close Curtain” introduced a lot more fictional elements to build up an imaginative plot. These two films were made when he was under house arrest. In his latest, “Taxi”, the most direct, enjoyable, and accessible documentary-like film from the currently censored phase, Panahi leaves home to show us a factual slice of today’s Tehran. He pretends to be a taxi driver who calmly rides throughout the city, interacting with a variety of passengers (real or fictional) in engrossing situations that tell us much about what his people think and how they feel, (re)act, and live. Not a single passenger is futile and the set fits perfectly the filmmaker’s intentions. Among them, we have a short man who illegally sells foreign movies, a wounded man who wants to change his will before dying, two superstitious ladies carrying a fish bowl, Panahi’s talkative niece who’s trying to make a ‘screenable’ short film for school, a conversation with a desolated childhood friend, and a fortuitous encounter with the affable ‘flower lady’ - another victim of the censorship. With an approach that is similar to Kiarostami’s “Ten” and a few references to Panahi’s old films, the unmissable “Taxi” is one of those cinematic wonders you want to prolong. Mr. Panahi’s only sin was not having more characters to ride – maybe because at the end some motorcyclist broke into his taxi. After this movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if, once again, he was considered a serious threat to the Iran’s security and banned from driving in the country.

Closed Curtain (2013)

Closed Curtain (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Movie Review: Simple in execution, sometimes baffling, but hard to forget, “Closed Curtain” is a valid representation of Jafar Panahi’s current inner state. Banned from filmmaking for 20 years, he is left to his own ghosts and frustrations, and even the words of encouragement from his friendly neighbors don’t always make him feel better. The film starts with a long shot through a window, showing the arrival of the first character, a writer who tries to pull out his creative side. He just wants to be in the company of his dog, which he hides from outside persecutors, since the dogs were considered unclean by some ‘unclean’ governmental law. With all the curtains shut, the quietness felt will be altered by the arrival of a suicidal, yet fearless young woman who is also running from the authorities for having participated in an illegal party. She’s the one who tries to open the curtains and rebel against this overwhelming lack of freedom and injustice. Obviously these two characters came out from Panahi himself, representing his inner battles, and gaining a very personal direction whose message is more than evident. Not so immediate as “This Is Not a Film”, "Closed Curtain" still demonstrates that Panahi can be inventive even with few resources available and surrounded by walls. Writer/director Kambuzia Partovi, who had been inactive since 2005, also co-directs and stars. The film was considered best screenplay in the last Berlin Film Festival.

Manuscripts Don't Burn (2013)

Manuscripts Don't Burn (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mohammad Rasoulof
Country: Iran

Movie Review: Everybody knows what’s happening to the movies coming from Iran, an authoritarian regime that imposes a tight censorship to the media. Mohammad Rasoulof is one of those persecuted filmmakers whose six films were never exhibited in his country of origin. By watching his latest film, “Manuscripts Don’t Burn”, we understand why the Iranian authorities were so concerned about the film and why Rasoulof was arrested in 2010 along with Jafar Panahi, another acclaimed director who refuses to shut his mouth. The film adopts a relentless narrative to tell the story of two men hired by the government with the mission of killing a writer without leaving marks. Furthermore, they have to do whatever is needed to take possession of a compromising manuscript and all its copies. The unstable but methodical ways used by the killers conditioned somehow the pace of the film, which takes its time to show how these illegal operations are carried out. The most interesting thing is to realize the motives of one of the killers who only thinks in earning some money for his sick kid. More political than entertaining, “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” is hard to watch and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its socio-political denunciations are extremely important to let the world know how these regimes of fear operate in the shadow. Rasoulof assumes a straightforward direction, revealing harsh realities instead of trying to thrill us. For obvious reasons, the cast and crew refused to have their names exhibited in the final credits.

Rhino Season (2012)

Rhino Season (2012)
Directed by: Bahman Ghobadi
Country: Iran/Turkey

Review: Bahman Ghobadi went to Turkey to shoot “Rhino Season”, an introspective political thriller with lyrical tones and a very particular pace. 30 years ago, during the Iranian Revolution, Sahel Farzan, a Kurdish-Iranian poet was arrested due to his harmless non-political book entitled “Rhino’s Last Poetry”. His wife’s driver, who was in love with her, made a false accusation driven by envy. Released from prison, Farzan departs to Istambul to search for his wife who believes he has been dead for 20 years. Direction and photography are sublime in this story replete of metaphors. The end is open to multiple interpretations, but it’s clear that Ghobadi wants to show that Iran’s regime is drowning the creativity of its own artists and with that, is also sinking itself. There is no other alternative than to leave a country more and more intolerant to self-expression and parched in its ideas. “Rhino Season” is tragic and evinces a deep sadness and pain... a tough reality for all the oppressed Iranian artists.

Modest Reception (2012)

Modest Reception (2012)
Directed by: Mani Haghighi
Country: Iran

Review: “Modest Reception” has a turbulent starting. The frenetic jazz heard at the opening credits, soon gives place to an effusive scene involving a strange couple and a checkpoint soldier. This couple simply decided to make a trip to a mountain region and deliver bags full of money to random people. Without knowing their motives or intentions, we just follow the reactions to this unlikely offer. Some people are completely indifferent; others are greedy; some others act suspicious, having to be persuaded to accept the money. Although obscure, the story provokes us somehow. The couple’s behavior denotes some madness, since they seem to enjoy what they’re doing but at the same time can’t hide an enraged personality. Alternating among humor, seriousness and some humiliation, "Modest Reception" simply shows us how unpredictably people behave when confronted with money. A radical experience with an unclear conclusion.

This Is Not A Film (2011)

Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Plot: This clandestine documentary, smuggled into France in a cake, depicts the day-to-day life of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi during his house arrest.
Quick comment: Panahi is a terrific Iranian director who is being victim of an enormous injustice perpetrated by the government of his country. His scripts were censored and he was condemned to 6 years of prison. Also, for the next 20 years he is not allowed to film or even leave the country. This is a pacific protest, a scream of anger and frustration against this humiliating repression. In the limited space of his home, Panahi just did one more time what he knows best - good and interesting cinema!
Relevant awards: -

Circumstance (2011)

Directed by: Maryam Keshavarz
Country: Iran

Plot: A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession.
Quick comment: Bold plot with a clever direction in this iranian present-day story. We can notice slight glimpses of openness which can’t override with the society’s ultra-conservative ideologies. It will make you think about the consequences of your choices.
Relevant Awards: Best film at Rome Film Fest, Italy; Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival and L.A.Outfest, USA.

A Separation (2011)

Realizado por: Asghar Farhadi
País: Irão
A qualidade do cinema iraniano volta a ser destaque, mais uma vez pela mão de Asghar Farhadi, o realizador que já nos tinha presenteado em 2009 com "about elly". Se este já me tinha agradado imenso, "a separation" agradou muito mais. Com magníficas interpretações e realização simples, o filme toca em tantos pontos sensíveis da cultura iraniana que em tão poucas linhas não conseguiria enumerar tudo. Mas não se fica por aqui, pois foca também conflitos e teimosias comuns à vida de qualquer casal. Com apenas 5 trabalhos lançados, Farhadi pode figurar ao lado de Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Ghobadi e Majidi, como um dos maiores representantes do cinema iraniano.

The Hunter (2010)

Realizado por: Rafi Pitts
País: Irão

Prometendo ser bem melhor do que aquilo que acabou por mostrar, este é um filme que traz à tona alguns dos principais problemas do Irão actual. Após de acidentalmente, perder a sua mulher e filha num tiroteio entre polícia e manifestantes, um homem decide vingar-se por sua conta, acabando por matar dois agentes da lei. Depois de perseguido e de fugir para o interior de um bosque, vai beneficiar da discórdia entre os dois polícias que o capturaram. A importância dos temas retratados (corrupção e abuso de poder nas forças policiais, excesso de burocracia nas esquadras da polícia e alienação geral devido à repressão do sistema), contrastam com uma realização menos conseguida. 


The Song of Sparrows (2009)

Realizado por: Majid Majidi
País: Irão
Karim é um criador de avestruzes que leva uma vida simples e honesta numa pequena cidade do campo. Quando uma avestruz foge da quinta onde trabalha, Karim é culpabilizado e despedido. Ao deslocar-se a Teerão para consertar o aparelho auditivo da filha, vai acidentalmente ser confundido com um dos motoristas de moto-taxi da cidade, o que possibilitará o ganho de algum dinheiro para levar para casa. A partir dessa altura vai aventurar-se por diversos trabalhos na capital iraniana, mas aos poucos vai ficando corrompido pelo ambiente desumano da cidade, perdendo a honestidade e o bom coração que antes possuía.


Shirin (2009)

Realizado por: Abbas Kiarostami
País: Irão
Durante 90 minutos, Kiarostami filma as expressões faciais de diversas actrizes, na sua maioria iranianas (com excepção da francesa Juliette Binoche), que se encontram a assistir a um filme sobre Shirin, princesa da Arménia, e a sua história de amor com Khosrow, príncipe da Pérsia. Apesar de muito bem narrado e conseguindo captar aqui e ali algum interesse, não consegue impressionar como o desejado. Kiarostami ficou famoso por fazer cinema de maneira original e minimalista, recorrendo diversas vezes a uma mistura quase perfeita entre realidade e ficção. Recomendo antes, "Close Up", "Ten" e "The Taste of Cherry" (verdadeiras jóias do cinema iraniano).

About Elly (2009)

Realizado por: Asghar Farhadi
País: Irão

Elly é professora no Irão. Após ser convidada pela mãe de uma aluna a passar um fim-de-semana em família numa casa junto ao mar, desaparece misteriosamente na mesma altura em que uma criança é salva de afogamento. Pouco a pouco vão sendo revelados alguns segredos sobre a vida de Elly, suscitando dúvidas se esta se afogou ao tentar salvar a criança ou se simplesmente fugiu.
Com um argumento simples, "about elly" é um filme cativante, envolvente e com momentos de tensão e suspense de grande nível.
Prémios nos Festivais de Berlim, Tribeca, Fajr, Kerala e Funchal.