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Entries in Iranian Cinema (11)

Friday
Dec092016

Interview: Oscar-Winner Asghar Farhadi Returns with "The Salesman"

by Nathaniel R

Two award winners: Asghar Farhadi with his star Shahab Hosseni

Asghar Farhadi's fame is finally catching up to his talent. After his international breakthrough with A Separation (2011) which won the Oscar and the Globe Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and became a significant arthouse hit internationally, the Iranian auteur has had three other movies travel to cinemas abroad. The acclaimed About Elly (2009) found renewed life and finally a US release, and his two follow up pictures The Past (2013) and The Salesman (2016) both took home coveted acting prizes from Cannes.

The Salesman, which will begin its US release in January after an Oscar-qualifying week recently in Los Angeles, is Farhadi's fourth consecutive film to be chosen by Iran to represent the country at the Academy Awards. Like A Separation, it's a stunner which begins simply before a fraught incident sends out large ripples complicating the story and the characterizations. We talked to Farhadi about the pressure of representing Iran, his Oscar night journey, and his creative process. The interview is after the jump...

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Saturday
Oct222016

Middleburg Day 2: The Salesman, Manchester by the Sea, Women in Hollywood

by Nathaniel R

On the first full day at the Middleburg Film Festival after that cathartic teary opening with Lion, I attempted to schedule a horseback ride for the full Middleburg experience. The town is known for its rich horses & hunting history and you can see horses and foxes in sculpture form and in signs and logos in the charming little town. Rain got in the way of a ride but all was not lost since a beautiful black and white cat named Callisto greeted me inside the stable at practically a full gallop and began rubbing up all over me. Dear reader, I can assure you that her love was requited! She was 21 years old but super friendly, spry and playful so the country life has obviously been kind to her. One can assume the horses also love her as she hasn't been stepped on. 

So back to the movies I went, a perfect activity for rainy days even when you aren't at a film festival.

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Tuesday
Oct182016

Reviews: "Desierto" and "Under the Shadow"

by Nathaniel R

Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Gael García Bernal in "Desierto"

Two more Oscar submissions are now in limited release in the US: Mexico's Desierto and the UK's Tehran set film Under the Shadows. Both are what you might call horror films though one suspects only the latter would accept the label. 

Desierto
We'll go anywhere with Gael García Bernal, who has blessed us with a number of fine road trip / travel movies in his career like Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Motorcycle Diaries , and The Loneliest Planet. In short, he's the perfect choice as a protagonist if you want us to sign up for a gruelling journey...

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Thursday
Oct222015

Women's Pictures - Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Let's be honest: as of 2014, the vampire sucked. Over its 150+ year history, the vampire has evolved from the exotic, erotic monster of Le Fanu's Carmilla and Stoker's Dracula, to Lugosi's low budget lothario, to the dangerously sexy rebels of The Lost Boys, to the brooding romantics of Anne Rice and Joss Whedon, to the defanged teenage fantasies of American preteen girls.While I don't begrudge girls their sexual fantasies, the fact remains that the vampire, in its current glittery form, is a far cry from the symbol of sexuality and otherness that it had been at its inception. With notable exceptions like Thirst and Let the Right One In, vampires have spent the last 30 years getting weaker, whiter, more often male, and very American. With A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Iranian American writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour is here to change all that.

It's difficult to define A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night as just one movie: it's a vampire flick, a spaghetti western, a love story, a feminist fantasy, and an allegory about Iran. The plot is fairly simple to describe: a young man named Arash (Arash Marandi) living in a corrupt city in Iran (known only as Bad City) falls in love with The Girl (Sheila Vand), a streetwalking vampire who preys on drugdealers and beggars. But don't dismiss this as a weak narrative film.

More...

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Wednesday
Oct142015

Oscar's Foreign Race Pt 5: We do love our trivia!

"everything u ever wanted to know about the foreign film category
*...but were afraid to ask"

Pt 1 81 Trailers | Pt 2 Women Directors & Debuts | Pt 3 Zoology | Pt 4 I know that face! 

who will follow Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland's IDA) to an Oscar win for Foreign Language Film?OKAY OKAY. We promise to calm down now.

We hope you've enjoyed our week long attempt to get you really pumped up for an Oscar category that's sometimes hard to get invested: Best Foreign Language Film. The films can be hard to track down making this competition less accessible, so we try our statistics and anecdotes and lists to pique your curiosity!  

But from here on out we'll try to track down as many as we can and actually see them. Imagine it: seeing movies! Please do share this series on twitter and facebook and whatnot. It's so much work and so many websites just depressingly print text only lists of titles and call it a day! We've already reviewed or done interviews from 11 of the pictures: Argentina's The Clan, Austria's Goodnight Mommy (now in theaters), Colombia's Embrace of the Serpent, Dominican Republic's Sand Dollars, France's Mustang, Germany's Labyrinth of Lies (now in theaters!), Hungary's Son of Saul, Norway's The Wave, Portugal's Arabian Nights Volume 2, Sweden's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, and Taiwan's The Assassin (opens Friday!). Off blog we've lined up screenings of 8 more in the next two weeks so we'll be sure to report. We'll never get to 81 but we can try.

ONE FINAL ROUND OF TRIVIA AFTER THE JUMP
Let's talk running times, previous Oscar nominees, and returning directors who've been submitted before.

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Wednesday
Sep302015

HBO’s LGBT History: Be Like Others (2008)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions.

Last week we looked at Bernard and Doris, which gave us a chance to wax on about two underrated actors, Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes. This week, we look abroad as we pause to think about Tanaz Eshaghian’s documentary Be Like Others (also known as Transsexual in Iran). More...

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Monday
Jun222015

Happy 75th, Abbas!

Amir here, to wish the happiest of birthdays to one of the masters. For all the success of Iranian cinema throughout the 90s and the emergence of several filmmakers who were lauded at international film festivals, the country's cinema had become, for better and for worse, synonymous with one man's name: Abbas Kiarostami. This has somewhat changed in recent years, with Kiarostami taking increasingly longer periods between projects and Jafar Panahi (This is Not a Film, Closed Curtain) and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly) receiving so much attention, but ask any cinephile who their favourite Iranian director is and chances are you're going to get the same response you did twenty years ago.

 

Kiarostami turns 75 today, and to celebrate his birthday, we're going to suggest five films from his vast filmography that aren't widely seen. If you're unfamiliar with his work, any of these is a great place is to start. For the purposes of this list, I have excluded his three milestone: Close-up (ranked among one of the 50 greatest films of all time in the latest Sight & Sound poll and recently name-checked right here as one of Cara Seymour's all time favorite movies), Taste of Cherry (the 1996 Palme d'or winner at Cannes) and Certified Copy starring Juliette Binoche which was his first fiction film outside of Iran, and the film that reignited critical and mainstream interest in his career.

The Experience/A Suit for the Wedding/The Traveller
Several of Kiarostami’s films, long or short, are available on youtube and other streaming sites. Unfortunately, the above three films aren’t among them. Still, this combination here is as good a way as any to spend 50 pounds. All three films deal with the troubles of children who are thrown into the adult world much sooner than they should be. Playful, compassionate and endlessly re-watchable, these films share little in the way of style or approach, but are indispensable both as social studies on children and markers of Kiarostami’s evolution as a director. (Available: Amazon)

The Report
Scenes from a (shattering) marriage, Iranian-style. The Report is a formal and thematic anomaly in Kiarostami's oeuvre — at least until the arrival of Certified Copy — but it’s nevertheless one of his richest works. This morally challenging, multi-faceted portrait of the break-up of a family doubles as a microcosm of a society on the brink of crumbling unto itself right before the revolution. The Oscar-nominated Shohreh Aghdashloo delivers a heart-breaking turn in one of her earliest films here. (Available: Certified Copy’s Criterion Collection)

Kiarostami (wearing shades) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (centre) on the set of The Report

Homework
Although Homework isn’t among my personal favourite Kiarostami films, it’s a crushing experience and an essential viewing. Almost entirely made up of interviews with young children about their school work routine, Homework exposes the limitations of the Iranian school system of the time, the violent social consequences of illiteracy and the disturbing effects of bullying. Only a filmmaker of Kiarostami's magnitude can lend such imposing power to a static shot interview with a kid. (Available: Youtube)

Where’s the Friend’s Home?
Inspired by and reflective of the elegance and deceptive simplicity of modernist Persian poetry, this film became Kiarostami’s ticket to international fame. The story couldn’t possibly get any simpler: a young boy discovers a classmate’s notebook in his bag and walks over to the neighboring village in order to find his house and give him the notebook. Soulful and deeply rooted in the fabric of rural culture in the north of Iran, in Kiarostami’s hands, this minimalist film is elevated to a near spiritual experience. (Available: Youtube, DVD, DVD)

Through the Olive Trees
The third instalment in Koker Trilogy, this is the director’s best film and remains criminally under-seen. Kiarostami creates a delicate and intimate story by, ironically, highlighting the deceit and artificiality inherent in fiction filmmaking. Through the Olive Trees, Iran's Oscar submission in 1994, tells two parallel stories — the film within the film, and the making of the film within the film — that accentuate the boundaries between form and content, and simultaneously assert their cinematic inseparability. This is a film in which we see the same take as it is being filmed and refilmed several times, and are nevertheless moved to tears when the effort is finally over; it's as if Kiarostami is taking perverse pleasure in tugging at our heartstrings while continuously reminding us that his film is a synthetic construct. This masterwork is a testament to the sheer emotional force of cinema and to the director's keen eye for finding magic in small, innocuous moments of human interactions. (Available: Dailymotion Part 1, Part 2)