A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi in A Separation
Nader: Peyman Moaadi
Simin: Leila Hatami
Razieh: Sareh Bayat
Hojjat: Shahab Hosseini
Termeh: Sarina Farhadi
Nader's Father: Ali-Asghar Shahbadi
Simin's Mother: Shirin Yazdanbakhsh

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi
Cinematography: Mahmoud Kalari

The original title in Persian translates as The Separation of Nader and Simin, but the film is about more separations than just that of the husband and wife played by Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami. It's about the separations between parents and children, between the middle class and the laboring class, between the devout and the worldly, and between the judicial system and those it supposedly serves. And for American audiences it also serves as a reminder of the separation that has existed between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran for more than 30 years. The movie was the first Iranian film to win the best foreign language film Oscar, and Farhadi's stunning script was also nominated for the best original screenplay Oscar. (It lost to Woody Allen's screenplay for Midnight in Paris.)  Whatever we may think of the regime in Iran, the universality of the human problems presented in the film stands in sharp contrast to the usual American attitude toward Iranians as alien and hostile. It struck me especially because this is the second film in a row I've watched about citizens caught in the inscrutable workings of their judicial system. Like the Russians in Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014), the two Iranian families locked in conflict in Farhadi's film must cope with the seeming indifference of the judges to their complicated problems. I was feeling complacent about the American justice system until I watched a segment of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on the horrific abuses of the public defender system which, especially if you happen to be poor and black, is every bit as cruelly broken as the corrupt Russian courts and the hidebound Iranian ones.