Friday, January 15, 2016

Taxi Tehran [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Chicago Tribune (4 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub  (B+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing*

Iranian Film Daily (A. Naderzad) review (A.A. Dowd) review
Chicago Tribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review (J.J. Ontiveros) review* (V. Langerová) review* (R. De Righi) review*
Sight & Sound (T. Johnson) review

Slant Magazine (J. Cole) review
Variety (S. Foundas) review

Taxi Tehran [2015] [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]* (written and directed by Jafar Panahi [wikip] [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]* [Amzn]) is a _necessarily_ very simple, _necessarily_ "indie" [TM] film that won critical acclaim (and awards) the world-over.  [In Chicago, the film played recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center]. This is because the director, officially banned from making films in Iran for 20 years (talk about "a blacklist" ... ;-) has had to "improvise."

Since being "banned" from film-making, he's made three ;-) -- one made, in part, using an iPhone, entitled This is Not a Film (orig. In Film Nist) [2011] [wikip] [IMDb] [Amzn] at his home in Tehran, another entitled Closed Curtain (orig. Pardé) [2013] [wikip] [IMDb] [Amzn-IV] at his vacation home by the Caspian Sea, and this one, made with a couple of strategically placed dashcams and a pretty good microphone, while driving around a taxicab in Tehran ;-).

The film involves basically video-taping a number of (generally staged) "conversations" that the ever smiling driver / director "has" while driving around his taxi on a random day.  None of the other participants / actors in the film are credited (for more-or-less obvious reasons...).

Can one create a compelling story in this way??  SURE ... The first passenger Panahi picks-up is a generally good-natured Tehrani 30-something "good old boy" who just complains that there's "too much crime in Tehran" these days (and one gets the sense would actually_like_ "someone like Panahi" being banned from making films these days ;-).

Then Panahi picks-up a couple of 40-50 year old women in orange if Islamic garb who are "on a mision":  They're trying to rapidly bring a couple of gold fish -- they have them "packaged" in nice water-laden plastic bags -- over to "Ali's Spring" at the edge of Tehran because it will "bring them good luck" if they do so on that particular day.

He's called then by his sister to pick-up his precocious 10-y/o niece at the end of the school day.  Of course, he's late ... She then, with her $100-little "Fuji style" digital camera in hand, is busily trying to "make her own film" and peppers her uncle with all sorts of questions about Iran's current regulations regarding what would make a "screenable film."  For instance, would filming a boy, basically her age, stealing something (small) at a market or from an unsuspecting passerby be considered "too sordid realism" for a "screen-able movie"?  (Basically, she had caught someone with her camera stealing something ;-). 

He also picks up a somewhat physically challenged person who makes a living selling "bootleg films" including _some of his own_ ;-).  That person is the only non-family/non-friend who actually recognizes him during the whole film ;-).  On one hand, this physically challenged person congratulates Panahi on his work.  On the other hand, he's making a living selling, illegally, said work ;-).  A little awkward, but they part "as friends" ;-).

Soooo ... What a cute little movie, huh? ;-) ... The true sadness, of course, is that Panahi is certainly capable of making _much greater things_.

Still, a story NEED NOT BE "GRAND" to MAKE A POINT.  And certainly in the "making a point" department THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST FASCINATING MOVIE OF THE YEAR ;-).

A very, very good AND VERY FUNNY JOB ;-)

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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