Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fish & Cat (orig. Mahi va Gorbeh) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  E4Film (3.5 Stars)  Slant (2 Stars)   Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing listing* (A. Robertson) review
Slant (S. McFarland) review

Fish & Cat (orig. Mahi va Gorbeh) [2013] [IMDb] [CIN] [IMV] [SC]* (written and directed by Shahram Mokri [IMDb] [CIN] [IMV] [SC]*) is a rather strange / surrealistic (and intentionally so ;-) Iranian film that played recently at the 25th Annual Festival of Films from Iran at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

Based on a true incident that occurred around a restaurant in the hinterlands of Western Iran in the late 1990s, an incident that would evoke a mix of anticipation / revulsion in the viewer reminiscent of the bloodletting / imagery of the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974], after baiting the audience with such rather sordid expectations at the current story's very beginning, the film proceeds to _meander_ -- for 2 1/2 hours (!!) ;-) --  in its telling of the said and promised-to-be sordid story in a manner that amuses and frustrates audience and invites, repeatedly, the audience to reflect, in various ways, on the NATURE OF TIME ;-) -- Is it slow? Or is it, if perhaps after a time, in fact quite  quick and DECISIVE? Is it linear or cyclical?  And, as one awaits some kind of resolution (!), does one just give-up or care? ;-)

Adding to the amusement of the story-telling, the film was shot -- all 2 1/2 hours of it -- IN ONE CONTINUOUS TAKE ;-) -- on an overcast (largely featureless) day, along the shore of a random lake / reservoir, among a group of random, mostly young people, preparing for a random if perhaps beautiful (but also fleeting) activity -- a local / somewhat regional "kite festival."

Among those random and generally cheerful young people walk two rather strange middle-aged men, who own a random yet appropriately creepy "roadside restaurant" relatively "nearby."  Everyone in the audience, of course, knows what one or the other of these two, random, if rather strange-looking middle aged men are (eventually...) gonna do.  BUT WHEN?

And the director, perhaps in his 30s, smartly dressed, in black slacks and a black sports coat, with a nice smartly trim beard, BEAMED after the screening here at the Siskel Center, looking like a young Oliver Stone / Spielberg-like director who's gotten one over on the audience ;-), noting that a knocked-over box of pop-corn in one of the aisles suggested that at least one or two of the audience members had gotten-up and left in frustration / disgust ;-).   Mission accomplished ;-)  

What then was the point of the film?  Well, he said it was inspired by Aescher Prints where people seemed destined to walk around in circles and that yes, he saw the film as a fun, meandering, both linear and cyclical, exploration of time.

Honestly, this was one fun, if at times quite exasperating, film ;-) and it reminds the American / Western viewer of both the humor and sophistication of Iran's people and culture.  After all, as Iranians (whether they like the current regime or not ... and one would assume that many/most of those involved in this festival, curated and paid for by Iranian Exiles, do not) almost universally like to remind Westerners ... theirs is a culture that's "been around for 3000 years."

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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