Friday, February 12, 2016

Avalanche (orig. Bahman) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing*

Fars News Agency article* article* interview w. director* interview w. director* (M. Jfryrad) review* (R. Farokhi) review* (S. Mostafaei) review* listing / viewer comments*

Keeping It Reel (D.J. Fowlie) review

Avalanche (orig. Bahman) [2015] [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]* (written and directed by Morteza Farshbaf [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*) is a fairly simple yet as always, poignant, at least partly allegorical and for the Westerner, informative, Iranian film that opened the recent 26th Annual Chicago Festival of Films from Iran being held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago over the course of February.

The film is about Homa (played in the film by Fatemah Motamed-Aria [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]), a nurse in her mid-50s, who lives in a fairly nice duplex with her husband Ahmad (played by Ahmad Hamed [IMDb] [SC]) in an upper-middle class section / suburb of Tehran.

It's winter.  When Ahmad picks her up at the end of her shift, or perhaps she was shopping, it has already been snowing for some time, AND IT DOES NOT STOP, SNOWING, THROUGH THE ENTIRE FILM.

Ahmad is all smiles at Homa enters the car.  A writer, who hasn't been writing for some time (why, is unclear...), recently he's started writing again.  Further, he's succeeded in unloading (finally selling) a ton of olive oil, which the two had apparently bought as part of some sort of a speculation scheme and had been stuck with, without a buyer (who could pay), for some time.  Readers remember here that Iran's been under fairly severe economic sanctions for some time.  These kind of schemes of buying / stocking-up / selling commodities as hedges against the relative worthlessness / unreliability of currency become reasonable, even common, in such situations.  Stocking-up on olive oil in a culture like Iran's -- people use it for cooking, AND CAN EVEN USE IT FOR LIGHTING (if it came down to it ...) -- would have seemed like "a good bet." 'Cept you still need buyers able ... to pay.

Homa, in contrast, is not ... "all smiles."  She's been asked by her boss, to take take the night shift for the next ten days at a hospital, now really at the outer edges of Tehran, to look after his ill / dying mother (played by Shirri Yazdanbakhsh [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]) who's a patient there while _he_ is out-of-town to deal with another family emergency -- his daughter had apparently been in a severe accident somewhere, "outside," presumably (outside of Iran...) in the West.

Working the night shift is never fun, but now it's snowing.  So each night she has to drive to-and-from work at this hospital "at the edge of town", in awful traffic, slowed-up even more due to the terrible / unrelenting snow.

Now Readers note here that despite Western perceptions, Iran has actually always (even under the current Islamic regime ...) been a relatively "moderate Islamic country."  So women in Iran _can_ drive, get university degrees and hold professional jobs.  Homa does / has all three.  That she was picked-up by her husband at the beginning of the story was _not_ because she wasn't allowed to drive, but rather because SHE had a steady job while HER HUSBAND (until recently) did not, and instead spent much of his time running errands while SHE worked.

Then, besides the awful hours / bad snow, she's dealing with several other irritations at home:

(1) Thanks be to God / Allah, Homa's husband's finally working (writing) again (and sold that "stupid olive oil") ... And remember, this was Iran, an Islamic country, where its relative "moderation" notwithstanding (see immediately above), MEN are supposed to be doing MOST THINGS and women are "oppressed" NOT ALLOWED TO DO MUCH.  Yet SHE'S actually been the one holding down a steady / meaningful job, keeping the family afloat, while her ever smiling, gregarious husband did ... what exactly did he do all those years? Apparently, he pretended that was some sort of a "Sinbad the Sailor" "Merchant" from "Silk Road" days ... "buying and selling" ... "olive oil" ... A TON OF WHICH apparently sat, FOR A LONG TIME, in a barrel in some storage space somewhere ;-/.

(2) She's been left taking care of "the stuff" left by her equally "happy-go-lucky" but _stupid_ / certainly immature, 20-30 something son, notably HIS (once) "beloved" dog named "Bobby."  Where's the son?  Apparently, after years of living in some apartment somewhere "closer to downtown Tehran" with "a friend" (played by Amir Nasiriunique [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]) WHO WAS ARGUABLY _A GAY LOVER_ ;-), he had recently "picked-up sticks" and left Iran for the West.  We see, briefly, Homa's son calling home by means of a skype-call.  And after "talking to mom," he wanted to "talk to his dog ..." ;-/.   Later mom, had to deal with her son's former "friend", who came by (while poor Homa just wanted to sleep ...) to go through / take back some of his "stuff" that her son / his former "friend" had left behind...

Finally (3) as "(bad) luck would have it," a new set of neighbors moved next door, and the wife was "a piano teacher."  So pretty much ALL DAY, EVERYDAY the sounds coming "from next door" were the awful sounds of very average, often quite _lousy_ students taking "piano lessons."

So each morning Homa comes home after working the night shift at a hospital "at the far edge of town" taking care of the quite irritable / ungrateful, elderly / unwell mother of her boss (who's "away"). And after driving through terrible traffic in a snowstorm that _does not seem to end_, she comes home to a house with a barking dog (left there by her son ... who's again "away").  And then ALL DAY she hears ALL the MISSED KEYS of her neighbor's WILL-NEVER-BE-MOZART "piano students." ;-)

It all "kinda feels like an avalanche" waiting to happen ...

When will it end? ;-)

And can one relate?  ... SURE ;-)

This was another quite excellent, if _small_ film coming from Iran, which reminds us in the West of Iran's artistic community's OBVIOUS talents / capabilities.  And one honestly wishes _the best_ for that OBVIOUSLY talented community and it's, again obviously, QUITE CULTURED PEOPLE.

Iran / Persia has at least a 3,000 year cultural history.  And despite everything else that may be happening in the world, films / film festivals like this one held here annually at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago do remind us of this.   Excellent job!

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

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