Iran/England/Italy, 2009, 95 minutes
Fri, Apr 23 / 8:45 / Kabuki / FRON23K
Sun, Apr 25 / 3:15 / Kabuki / FRON25K
Tue, Apr 27 / 2:00 / Kabuki / FRON27K
In the “land of heartbreak and tractors,” the northern frontier of Iran, director Babak Jalali mines absurdist humor and quiet pathos from the immutable routines of a group of men. Hassan is a Persian with Coke-bottle glasses whose only pal is his ever-present donkey. His uncle runs a clothing store whose items never seem to fit his shoppers. A Turkmen minstrel—posing for a Tehrani photographer more interested in an exotic ideal than the real man in front of his camera—pines for the wife he lost 30 years ago. And Alam devotes free time to learning English—the tapes he listens to have him calmly repeating “Everything is fine”—so that he can run away with the Persian woman he loves, but has never talked to. Together, these characters go through the motions of living while preoccupied with escape, whether through the Françoise Hardy song Hassan plays over and over or the green Mercedes that whisk away the minstrel’s wife. Women, despite occupying much of the men’s thoughts, are extremely rare around here, and Tehran, spoken of dismissively yet frequently invoked, seems worlds away. The men and indeed the place itself—combing the empty landscapes of the barren steppe and endless Caspian Sea—are defined more by what is absent than what is there. Against visually serene compositions and a plaintive score, Jalali teases out the intense longing hidden behind his characters’ stoic expressions, crafting a humane and drolly charming first feature that leaves an indelible impression of a neglected corner of Iran.
In Persian and Turkmen with English subtitles. Presented in association with California Film Institute.