lots of existentialist getting in and out of cars and smoking
I saw this on Dec 3, the final night of the Boston MFA Iranian Film Festival. The auditorium was packed with a mostly Iranian audience. Niki Karimi was there and answered questions afterwards. She's charming and funny, and managed pretty well in English.
Karimi warned the audience before the start not to expect a "story", because she is not interested in telling stories. Fair enough. My initial reaction was that the film lacked not only a story but also a point. We see a cycle of scenes of a working woman under stress from a variety of sources. Her reactions remain entirely internal--she remains opaque, revealing nothing interesting about her emotions or her personality. The film is a set of repeated scenes of her abruptly leaving whomever she happens to be talking to, to get in her car, drive somewhere, get out, smoke a cigarette, and get back in her car again. All while looking miserable. Repeat for 90 minutes.
This is too harsh however as there is something to be said for the film, beyond the repetitive plainness. We get a glimpse of the ordinary life of a modern urban woman in Teheran. There are a few moments of humor.
Among the questions somebody asked was why the woman never smiled. Karimi said because she was depressed. Another noted that the camera didn't move much, and was there a reason for that. Karimi answered because she doesn't like camera movement. Karimi is a sympathetic figure and I think captivated the audience, more perhaps than her film itself did, with this kind of deadpan humor. In the absence of external clues you are left to infer that, even though she took pains to say that this was not a self-portrait, that she was the source of the same kind of deadpan neutral tone that is found in the film itself. A tone that succeeded in conveying a mood of unresolved desperation, buried deep underneath which might be found a lively, funny spirit. It is also a metaphor of life for modern people and for women in particular living in such a repressive society. You are forced to search for meaning in the small gestures, in the pauses, in what remains unsaid.
A contradictory review is a sign of either a careless review writer, or of a movie that's more complex than it seems.
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