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Iranian Cinema


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It's absolutely amazing how Majidi takes such simple stories and infuses them with incredible talent, especially the ability to bring out such great acting from the children he works with, and how intricate and detailed -- and even spiritual -- these normal events become.

Agreed... in this regard, his films remind me of Zhang Yimou's rural films, i.e. "The Road Home" and "Not One Less" (which, for some reason, I gave a lacklustre review, but the more I reflect on it the more I like it). Very simple, naturalistic stories infused with gorgeous imagery and themes. The scene in "The Color Of Paradise" where they create the dye from flowers, or the scene in "Baran" with the cobbler, greatly reminded me of the bowl-fixing scene in "The Road Home". Incredibly mundane, everyday events - and yet they take on an almost mystical air in the films.

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Alas, I still haven't seen Baran.

I wasn't as impressed with Baran as much as i was with the other two, FWIW. I just didn't feel like the same elements were captured as well in that particular film. It seemed flat compared to the earlier stories. But then again, the magic the children brought to the other two movies was missing; Baran doesn't have any little kids in it.

Also, i've seen the others quite a few times, but Baran only once. I guess it could've been the day; could've been my mood. And i'd still recommend it, even after only one viewing, just not as strongly as the other two.

The performance of the boy in The Color of Paradise is one of those child-acting miracles on par with Ponette and the girls of In America. Heartbreaking stuff. I love those films.

Yeah... Whenever i hear a conversation about child actors, i always have to chime in with Children of Heaven and Ratcatcher.

-s.

Edited by stef

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I wasn't as impressed with Baran as much as i was with the other two, FWIW.  I just didn't feel like the same elements were captured as well in that particular film.  It seemed flat compared to the earlier stories.  But then again, the magic the children brought to the other two movies was missing; Baran doesn't have any little kids in it.

Baran is the only one Majidi's films that I've seen, and I've only seen it once. I liked it, but it didn't overwhelm me. Of course, I was sick and in bed at the time....BUT now I'm kicking myself for juding those other films in light of Baran. I know I've passed up Children of Heaven at least twice at my local library. Sounds like I'm really missing something great.

Diane

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I've passed up Children of Heaven at least twice at my local library. Sounds like I'm really missing something great.

Diane.

Get this movie immediately. You will not be let down. I would never lead you astray.

-s.

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I've passed up Children of Heaven at least twice at my local library. Sounds like I'm really missing something great.

Diane.

Get this movie immediately. You will not be let down. I would never lead you astray.

-s.

Stef might lead you astray, but I never would. In this case, Stef and I are in complete agreement. "Children of Heaven" is lovely.

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Baran is the only one Majidi's films that I've seen, and I've only seen it once. I liked it, but it didn't overwhelm me. Of course, I was sick and in bed at the time....BUT now I'm kicking myself for juding those other films in light of Baran. I know I've passed up Children of Heaven at least twice at my local library. Sounds like I'm really missing something great.

Of the three that I listed, I'd have to agree that Baran, while still quite good, is definitely my least favorite.

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Stef might lead you astray, but I never would. In this case, Stef and I are in complete agreement. \"Children of Heaven\" is lovely.

I'm sure neither one of you would lead this naive, trusting little soul astray. Okay, I'm planning to see this one ASAP. And hopefully follow it up with The Color of Paradise.

Diane

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Oh, how I wish Doug C were still with us, so he could stir things up and once again dismiss Majidi as the Iranian Walt Disney smile.gif ... FWIW, Baran is the only Majidi I have seen, and I rather liked it, but I certainly wouldn't say it's the best Iranian film ever or anything.

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Majidi was my introduction to Iranian films, and a very pleasant one at that. But it was, in fact, when I started hearing dismissive comments about how Majidi was (essentially) "the Walt Disney of Iranian films" from his fellow Iranian directors that I started looking around and discovered Iranian cinema is much broader and deeper than Majidi. Not to be too much of a snob, but Majidi is in some ways the slicked-up and Westernized version of Iranian film. Not to say that he's the McDonald's of Iranian Cinema or anything, but he certainly has gotten his work distributed around the world in ways that have long perturbed some of his countrymen directors and anybody else who knows that Iranian cinema is not just Majidi. So there's that. Nevertheless, I still look forward to every new Majidi release.

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Not to be too much of a snob, but Majidi is in some ways the slicked-up and Westernized version of Iranian film.

I kind of gathered that from some of the articles and whatnot that I've read. So, where should I go next after Majidi's films?

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I don't think Majidi is "Western" so much as universal in his appeal. "Children of Heaven" is a movie for all ages and cultures, and to criticize Majidi for making a film that appeals to Western sensibilities as well as those of other cultures is churlish. I'm with Ebert on this one. (Of course, Ebert is a Westerner.)

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So, where should I go next after Majidi's films?
A question which, while not of the magnitude of "What must I do to be saved?", will -- at least in some circles -- be almost as certain to provoke a passionately evangelistic response. jRobert is the man on Iran, or at least on , Abbas Kiarostami, the dean of Iranian directors. But don't head into Kiarostami without adequate preparation. Start maybe with Makhmalbaf or Dariush Mehrjui, and you can branch off from there into dozens more directors and hundreds of films. Not that I am all that fluent, or even up-to-date. I did put together this introductory article on Iranian film for the Flickerings program in 2002, which may offer some guidance.

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I don't think Majidi is \"Western\" so much as universal in his appeal. \"Children of Heaven\" is a movie for all ages and cultures, and to criticize Majidi for making a film that appeals to Western sensibilities as well as those of other cultures is churlish. I'm with Ebert on this one. (Of course, Ebert is a Westerner.)
Who you calling a churl? :wink: Hey, I yield to nobody in appreciation for films with universal appeal, including plenty of Western films. The reason for concern among some observers is rather that most of the things that are so exciting about the cinema of Iran and its impact on world cinema are not necessarily what you find in Majidi. At the same time, some of the criticisms of Majidi (by, say, his fellow Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui have been in the neighborhood of churlish, if somewhat understandable in the light of Iran's other directors own relative obscurity for what is probably more important work. And Ebert has been way outside the mainstream of critical thinking on Kiarostami, Iranian's most famous and influential director, FWIW.

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Who you calling a churl?   :wink:  Hey, I yield to nobody in appreciation for films with universal appeal, including plenty of Western films.  The reason for concern among some observers is rather that most of the things that are  so exciting about the cinema of Iran and its impact on world cinema are not necessarily what you find in Majidi.

Granted. I yield to you guys who know more about Iranian cinema, but I stand as an advocate for Majidi because of the very reason you might suspect: It was his films that were my first exposure to contemporary Iranian cinema, and I loved them. They led me to Makhmalbaf (didn't love those films so much) and then Kiarostami.

Hey, wait a minute. My story is just like Mike's! But frankly, he's way ahead of me. Still, if Diane watches "Children of Heaven" and "Color of Paradise," and that leads her ultimately to "A Taste of Cherry," she'll be following the same path I did, and will hopefully enjoy the films as much as I have.

I hope to see Kiarostami's "Ten" next, but I'm not in a big rush. If I can't get to that one soon, Mike, do you have another recommendation for me in the meantime?

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Just got around to reading the Calendar section from Sunday's LA Times and see that there is celebration of Iranian films at UCLA going on until Feb 8. Films include: Friday, Crimson Gold; Sat., Letters in the Wind; 1/23, Deep Breath; 1/25, Tehran, 7:00 a.m.; 1/31, Black Tape - A Tehran Diary; 2/6, Dancing in the Dust; 2/8, Abjad.

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I'm hoping to attend at least some of that series, Darrell.

You guys should've started a new thread for Iranian cinema--this is great.

And I must second the criticism of Majidi, who makes sentimental films about cute children and doesn't in any way match the social critique of a Panahi (The Circle) or the philosophical artistry of a Kiarostami (The Wind Will Carry Us). This is one reason why Majidi's films are officially sanctioned by the Iranian government (re: their Oscar submissions) when Panahi's films are banned, Kiarostami is criticized of making films for Western audiences, and feminist Tamineh Milani (curiously, an Ebert fav) is threatened with the death penalty. (Incidentally, it has also be noted that there is a greater ratio of women directors in Iran than there is in Hollywood.)

Majidi makes safe and polished works that don't challenge the viewer, which is fine in the way plenty of movies are made, but the real artists of Iranian cinema are ones like those I've mentioned above.

And Ebert, who has (dismissively) reviewed precisely two Kiarostami movies in the past 20 years, should not be considered an expert on the subject in any way. Godfrey Cheshire, who wrote this fine introduction to Iranian cinema, is a genuine authority.

And my friend Darren wrote these comments on Close-Up, which I agree with Mike is simply one astounding film. (As is Kiarostami's earthquake trilogy, available from Facets.org distribution.)

I'd also highly recommend Marzieh Meshkini's wonderful The Day I Became a Woman (on DVD in the UK).

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Thanks, Alan. Incidentally, Kiarostami's "earthquake trilogy" could have increased poignancy due to the horrible earthquake that recently killed so many in Iran:

Where is the Friend's Home? (1989) is a beautiful story about a child going on a journey from one village to another in order to return his friend's schoolbook, knowing they have a test the next day. (This would make a great transition from Majidi to more challenging Iranian films.)

Life and Nothing More (1992) is a fictionalized account of a filmmaker who travels to the child's village after a real-life 1990 earthquake devastated it, as he then searches for the child actors who played in the earlier film.

Through the Olive Trees (1994) is a fictionalized film about making the previous film and how it affected the local populace.

And BTW, great news: Facets is pre-ordering their DVD of the landmark documentary by Forugh Farrokhzad, The House is Black. I've only seen a bad dub of it with French subtitles, but even so, its intensity was extremely moving. Jonathan Rosenbaum included it in his Top 10 Films of All Time list for Sight & Sound, and here's his capsule review from the Chicago Reader:

"Forugh Farrokhzad

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OK, Diane -- just forget about Majidi. I'm convinced: He SUCKS. Don't waste your time with his piece-of-crap movies. I don't know what I ever saw in them.

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That's funny, Christian I don't know why you'd think that?

As for me, again, I think his films are fine mainstream, heart-tugging pictures made in accessible ways. There's nothing wrong with that. But for the record, there is a lot more socially/aesthetically/ideologically challenging stuff coming out of Iran.

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Oh yeah, Winstar is also releasing the impressive Under the Skin of the City by yet another Iranian woman filmmaker, Rakhshan Bani-Eternad, on DVD on March 16. I believe JRobert picked this as one of his top ten of the year?

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Thanks, everyone, for the recommendations. I just added The Wind Will Carry Us and The Circle (which I'd meant to check out sooner) to my NetFlix queue, so hopefully I'll be seeing them soon.

I just went back and rewatched parts of The Color Of Paradise tonight, and I can definitely see where some people would find it cloying and overly sentimental (such as the scenes with Mohammad and his sisters, where they're chasing butterflies or feeding the chickens in slow-motion backed by Yanni-esque music). But I still find it to be an incredibly beautiful and moving film full of poetic imagery, and a very eye-opening film as well. I can't wait to see what other treasures Iran has in store for me!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Darrel mentioned Tehran 7 A.M. and my thread on it never worked on its own, so it came to mind to post it here.

My post on Tehran 7 AM and Abadan.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Doubt I'll head to UCLA for Crimson Gold. When I saw Fog of War yesterday, one of the trailers was for CG. Must be coming to theatre fairly soon.

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Well said (M)Leary, I agree that we shouldn't categorically dismiss commercial works. I have no intention of diminishing anyone's enjoyment of Majidi, but if people wanted to learn about, say, American cinema and were initially discussing Ron Howard, I'm sure plenty of us wouldn't hesitate to provide more ambitious examples. (The same would be true if "Indian cinema" became "Bollywood" rather than, say, Satyajit Ray or Ritwik Ghatak.)

Pop culture has its function, but it's not the whole story, especially in terms of the artistic life of any given region.

I think you'll adore Close-Up, BTW...save this space!

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Glad to see we could lure you back, Doug! smile.gif

(M)Leary wrote:

: I caught Baran at the CIFF a few years back and actually remember

: being refreshed that I was not being bombarded by cultural dialogue, but

: rather a simple narrative emerging from a cultural/political situation far

: removed from my own. As a film, it worked well.

Good point. In a way, it can be even more instructive to see films that take certain cultural situations for granted, rather than films that assume everything is up for debate. This is one of the reasons I and a couple friends make a point of seeing the occasional 'urban' (i.e. African-American) film that makes its way to Vancouver. At times it really IS like watching a foreign film. (Mind you, watching jingoistic trailers for films like Miracle and The Alamo really reminds you that all American films are, strictly speaking, foreign films, too.)

: I guess I am trying to make the argument (and I can't believe me of all

: people is attempting to make this argument, Cassavetes is rolling in his

: grave) that intentionally commercial production doesn't automatically

: preclude a film from being an important cultural document. If anything

: Le Cercle Rouge is a clearer "French" statement than anything Godard

: did that decade. Some of Majidi's films may have the same sort of social

: value as some of Melville's films.

Well put.

Doug C wrote:

: I have no intention of diminishing anyone's enjoyment of Majidi, but if

: people wanted to learn about, say, American cinema and were initially

: discussing Ron Howard, I'm sure plenty of us wouldn't hesitate to provide

: more ambitious examples.

Also well put.

: (The same would be true if "Indian cinema" became "Bollywood" rather

: than, say, Satyajit Ray or Ritwik Ghatak.)

How well I remember my love of Santosh Sivan's engaging political thriller The Terrorist, and how well I remember the shock I felt upon seeing that director's next film, Asoka, and discovering that it was a standard-issue three-hour song-and-dance Bollywood flick!

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