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It's been months since Jafar Panahi, stuck in jail, has been awaiting a verdict by the appeals court. By depicting a day in his life, Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb try to portray the deprivations looming in contemporary Iranian cinema.
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For Hussein, a pizza delivery driver, the imbalance of the social system is thrown in his face wherever he turns. One day when his friend, Ali, shows him the contents of a lost purse, Hussein discovers a receipt of payment and cannot believe the large sum of money someone spent to purchase an expensive necklace. He knows that his pitiful salary will never be enough to afford such luxury. Hussein receives yet another blow when he and Ali are denied entry to an uptown jewelry store because of their appearance. His job allows him a full view of the contrast between rich and poor. He motorbikes every evening to neighborhoods he will never live in, for a closer look at what goes on behind closed doors. But one night, Hussein tastes the luxurious life, before his deep feelings of humiliation push him over the edge.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Bravely depicts the powerlessness of the individual
Winner of the Jury Award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival but sadly banned in Iran, Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold shows the growing chasm in Iran between rich and poor and the psychological effects of living under a regime based on fundamentalist religion. Written by famous Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, it is based on a newspaper account of a similar incident that took place several years ago in Tehran. The film opens inside a jewelry store where a robbery is taking place. As a crowd gathers, the robber is trapped when the security system is released and the bars close over the front door. Flashbacks then show the events that led up to the crime and the film speculates as to what might have led to this act of desperation.
Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin), an alienated heavy set man who hides his emotions, is a pizza deliveryman in Tehran who takes cortisone shots to relieve the pain of injuries sustained in the Iran-Iraq War. He is engaged to be married to his friend Ali's (Kamyar Sheissi) sister but they communicate little. Ali is a thief who snatches women's purses but is an amateur bungler who rarely scores a big take. On examining the contents of a purse with Hussein at a restaurant, they discover the receipt for an expensive necklace and their fascination leads them to visit the jewelry store where it was purchased. When the owner refuses to let them in the store because of their dress, resentment boils.
Another incident reinforces this hurt. Hussein is forced by security police to wait outside a building as they arrest people attending a party for allegedly violating the social code of the regime that prohibits men and women from dancing together. Though he good-naturedly hands out pizzas to the police and the detainees waiting outside the building, he is upset at the manner in which he is treated. A bizarre final sequence raises Hussein's anger to the breaking point. He delivers a pizza to a lavish penthouse apartment where he is invited in by the wealthy tenant (Pourang Nakaheal), a young man who recently returned to Iran after staying with his parents in the U.S. The man, who appears to be lonely, talks incessantly, complaining about the "city of lunatics" he has returned to. As the young man chats on the cell phone, Hussein wanders through the house amazed at its affluence. He finds a rooftop swimming pool and jumps in fully clothed, then sits on the roof simply gazing at the city below. Fuming inwardly, the very next day he walks into the jewelry store with a loaded gun.
Crimson Gold bravely depicts the powerlessness of the individual in an authoritarian society, yet Hussein's emotional repressiveness and the telegraphing of the final outcome dilutes the film's tension, almost to the point of lethargy. To his credit, Panahi makes a strong statement but does not wallow in polemics, making it clear that the crime results from a combination of both social and psychological factors. Hussein is not an ordinary individual beaten down by the system but a walking time bomb, a man physically and mentally damaged by the war, uncommunicative, and humiliated by each slight, no matter how minor. Like Hussein, Panahi knows something about the feeling of being trapped and humiliated and his experience lends immediacy to the film. In 2001, the director was detained, then chained to a bench for ten hours because he refused to be fingerprinted and photographed by US authorities at JFK airport, a reminder that assaults upon human dignity are not limited to a single country.
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