FILM NOTES – ASGHAR FARHADI’S THE SALESMAN

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s award-winning film The Salesman  (Forushande in Persian) centers around the notion of love, friendship, trust, revenge and forgiveness. If you have seen Farhadi’s previous films like About Elly or The Separation you know they leave you with more questions than answers. In The Salesman Farhadi skillfully peels layer after layer and leaves you with what is essential to any relationship – trust, love and forgiveness. The film also give us a view of modern day Iranian society and the toll that censorship takes on a society.

Central to the film is the relationship between Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidosti) a husband and wife, who are passionate about theatre. The couple along with their friends are in the process of staging a Persian version of Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman.  The couple’s happy life is rudely interrupted one night when they discover their apartment building is collapsing. They leave their home and have no idea how and where they will find a new home to rent. As luck would have it their theatre colleague helps them find a new apartment. When they move into their new place the couple discover that one of the room contains the previous tenant’s possessions. For some inexplicable reason the previous tenant (a woman) appears to have vacated the apartment in a hurry. Emad and Rana treat it as a minor & temporary inconvenience that they don’t have access to the previous tenant’s room. They settle down to resume their life and the rehearsal of their play.

One evening Rana hears the bell ring just as she is going in for a shower. She unlatches the front door for Emad and slips into the bathroom. That is the first twist in the narrative and changes into a whodunit film. Turns out it was not Emad who rang the bell, but a stranger, who sexually assaults Rana. When Emad comes home that evening he discovers what happens to Rana he is devastated. Why was Rana assaulted and by whom? Could there be a connection to the previous tenant, who left behind her belongings? This is when the film becomes interesting as we follow Emad’s painful journey to track the culprit that ends on a rather unexpected note.

In 2012 Farahadi won an Oscar for his film The Separation. In 2o17 The Salesman won an Oscar nomination in the foreign film category and is a strong contender in this year’s Oscar race. Farhadi along with his cinematographer Hossein Jafarian was planning on attending the Oscar awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Due to the recent US travel restrictions on citizens of Iran Farhadi will not attend the Oscar awards ceremony. He issued an official statement saying that he will not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in February.

The Salesman released in the San Francisco Bay area on Feb 3, 2017.

  • Title: THE SALESMAN
  • Running Time: 125 minutes
  • Status: Released Feb 2017
  • Country: IRAN/FRANCE
  • GENRE: DRAMA

 

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MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, MOONLIGHT & THE SALESMAN

The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 6-26,2016) is packed with so many wonderful films that it is going to be a challenge to figure out which ones to watch.

For the next couple of weeks I will share a few of the films that caught my eyes. Here are my first 3 films that had me rooted in my seat and had me thinking about them long afterwards. When a film makes you think then the filmmaker has succeeded in connecting with you. That does not happen so often in this information rich age of ours, where we are bombarded with information every breathing second. I sat transfixed as I watched these films. I somehow managed to scribble a few lines in my notebook to remind me later what was it about these film that caught my attention. Transfixed is the right word to describe all 3 films:

  • The Eagle Huntress 
  • Moonlight 
  • The Salesman

Director Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress is a stunning and gorgeous film set in Mongolia that will take your breath away. The film is about a young Kazakh teenager Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who with the help and support of her father trains and becomes an eagle huntress and breaks down an ancient social tradition and barrier in her community. There are no shrill dialogs or long arguments in the film. It is all about patience, courage and trying over and over again until you get it right. We also get to see the teenage side of Aisholpan as she hangs out with her girl friends and paints her nails with her younger sister.

Traditionally, the training and learning the skills to become an eagle hunter is passed from father to son. In The Eagle Huntress we see how one father decides to break the norms and mores of his society and train his young daughter to become a hunter. Aisholpan displays innate courage and strength as she learns to catch and train her own eagle with the steady support of her father.

Special mention must be made of the scenery in The Eagle Huntress and the fantastic work by cinematographer Simon Niblett. The vast steppes of Mongolia in its various moods are gorgeously captured in the film.  I suspect they used drone cameras for some of those beautiful shots of the Mongolian landscape. Watching the Mongolian landscape reminded of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah’s films, where the scenery is a definite character in their films.

Here is the screening and ticket information for The Eagle Huntress at MVFF.

Filmmaker Barry Jenkin’s  Moonlight is a poetical and lyrical film about love and masculinity in the African-American community. The film is based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney’s called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Moonlight is about a young boy and how his family, friends and society shape his growth from boyhood to adulthood. What is interesting is the way the camera was used for each act.  James Laxton‘s camera work brilliantly captures and sets the mood for the film. You will have to watch Moonlight to find out for yourself on how the camera was deployed to create that mood for each act. This is a film that will stir your emotions and make you think about how we treat and judge people. It also underscores how a little love and kindness goes a long way.

Jenkins will be at the screening of Moonlight at MVFF.

Here is the screening and ticket information for Moonlight at MVFF.

Iranian filmmaker Farhad Ashgari’s award-winning film The Salesman (Forushande in Persian) makes for an absorbing watch and leaves you thinking about marriage, love, friendship and about truth and our value system.

The Salesman is about a young couple in Teheran, who are part of a small theatre group that is staging Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.The young couple’s life undergoes a significant change when they move into a new apartment. The film stars Shahab Hosseini and  Taraneh Alidoosti as the young couple. Hosseini won the best male actor and Ashgari won the best screenplay award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Ashgari will be at the screening The Sales at MVFF.

Here is the ticket and screening information for The Salesman at MVFF.