|Emilie Dequenne in Rosetta|
Before the Last Curtain Falls (Wallner, 2014, C+/B-)
The structure of the film – about a group of gay and transsexual performers organizing one last tour before they are too old to perform – gets repetitive near the end, but the heart is at the right place. This is a compassionate look at a cathartic, therapeutic experience for an unfairly marginalized group of people.
Actress (Greene, 2014, B+) (review)
“Actress is a film about the line at which presented and represented realities meet, the point where performance becomes truth. That the film tackles these intricate concepts with vigorous formal inventiveness and a unique and fluid visual style makes it an exceptional treat. It belongs to that rare breed of documentary film that doesn’t content itself with merely observing its fascinating subject, but engages with it on a textual level.”
A Dress Rehearsal For an Execution (Tavoosi, 2013, D+)
The idea of recreating a famous, politically charge image of an execution that defined its photographer as much as it drove him to a life in obscurity, using actors from socially oppressed backgrounds, is noble but the film fails to elicit any meaning from the exercise, or any emotions from the audience.
Children of Heaven (Majidi, 1998, B+)
The emotional beats, though never manipulative, are blatantly schematic, but the final fifteen minutes of the film redeem the faults of everything leading up to those moment. It is virtually impossible to finish Children of Heaven without tears streaming down one’s face even after multiple viewings.
Hamoun (Mehrjui, 1990, A)
The troubled twentieth century struggle of the traditional Iranian society to accept, adopt and adapt to modernity and the complexities of defining women’s new role in the post-Islamic revolution country are embodied in Mehrjui’s articulate film. A measured study of the collective identity crisis caused by a nation’s fixation on progress in the face of tradition.
Rosetta (Dardenne Brothers, 1999, A)
Economical in its visual approach and reticent in narration, the Dardenne brothers’ tense, gritty and gripping portrayal of resilience and integrity in the face of destitution is the cream of the Palme d’or winning crop.
The Immigrant (Gray, 2014, B+/A-)
Gray’s gold-saturated aesthetic evokes in the audience an unshakable sense of melancholia in the audience, not entirely unlike what the film’s central trio feel about love, life, each other and the broken American dream in the 1920s New York.
Dash Akol (Kimiai, 1971, B+)
Sadegh Hedayat’s original source novella is one of the landmarks of modern Iranian literature, a text that piercingly examines the culture of chivalry and the psyche of the Iranian man. Kimiai’s adaptation captures the book’s spirit and insight, and meticulously externalizes the text’s entrenched social and religious identities through design, dialogue, music and performance.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, Russo/Russo, C-)
Possibly the best entry so far in the Marvel cinematic universe, a fact that only speaks to the low standards the studio has set for itself. Structurally inept, visually nauseating and emotionally uninvolving, with a few good moments peppered few and far between.
The Father (Majidi, 1996, B-) (review)
The weakest of Majidi’s four films about children, but an engaging effort nonetheless. The Father’s examination of deep rooted patriarchy in rural Iran is precise and the performances by the central quartet are incredibly powerful but the finale undermines the film.
Gheisar (Kimiai, 1969, B+)
Hampered by technical errors, asynchronous sound and lack of proper restoration, Gheisar leaves a lot of to be desired formally, but as the defining feature of the popular ‘Tough Guy’ genre, its significance and appeal cannot be overstated. The thrills of the film and its iconic dialogue and performances hold up nearly five decades after it first charmed Iranians.
Argo (Affleck, 2012, C+)
Less and less rewarding on each new screening, Argo is reduced to a xenophobic, dull and cliched thriller. A self-congratulatory pat on the back for Hollywood with an infuriatingly myopic view of Iranians, the impression of political awareness and importance is a product of the film’s impeccable design, but there isn’t much to ponder beneath the surface.
Noah (Aronofsky, 2014, C+)
Aronosfky’s vision of the story of Noah’s Ark is as unique as it is bland. Aesthetically limited to the familiar confines of modern fantasy cinema, Noah is reasonably entertaining to sit through but it is surprising that this ideologically barren film has incited such intense reactions from religious groups.
A Time For Drunken Horses (Ghobadi, 2000, B+)
Ghobadi’s formal decisions are at times overtly calculated for maximum emotional punch, but his compassion, political shrewdness and the narcotizing beauty of the atmosphere he paints make the film an undeniably powerful experience, and an utterly heartbreaking one.
Hellboy (Del Toro, 2004, B) (review)
An oddity in the pantheon of superhero films; Del Toro and Perlman’s witty, warm and soulful rendition of this everyman superhero captures the atmosphere of the original comic book aesthetically and emotionally.