Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

There’s a strong possibility that A Hero is the most that Asghar Farhadi has ever “done an Asghar Farhadi”. This would typically be a problem, but since “doing an Asghar Farhadi” basically means to craft a blend of social commentary and white-knuckle moral thriller done in a deceptively loose realist aesthetic, telling a story that […]

It’s not literally the case that every single anthology film that has ever been made has one segment that threatens to seriously undo all the good work done by the rest of them, but it feels that way sometime. And There Is No Evil, the Golden Bear winner at the 2020 Berlinale, makes things extra […]

The problem with being the director responsible for A Separation is that you’ll almost certainly never make something as good as A Separation ever again. Would I have fallen head over heels for The Salesman if it was just some movie, and not the seventh feature made by Asghar Farhadi? In truth, reader, I do […]

Starless Dreams is an exercise in pure heartbreak. The documentary has more on its mind than simply making the viewer feel terrible (it is, in fact, a social problem film, though one that offers nothing resembling a solution for the seemingly endless nightmare of human suffering it depicts), but feeling terrible is an unavoidable side […]

The three films made by Jafar Panahi after he was forbidden by the Iranian government from making more films form an intriguing little symbolic arc. 2011’s This Is Not a Film is all clastrophobic realism, a barely-fictionalised diary of Panahi’s own life under house arrest, the director playing himself and his apartment playing itself and […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/15 & 10/17 & 10/19World premiere: 7 September, 2014, Toronto International Film Festival Movies about ideas are wonderful things; movies that are “About Ideas” to the point where they start to disappear inside their own ass are much less so. And the French-made Iranian film Red Rose (that is, the crew and […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/20 & 10/22World premiere: 12 February, 2013, Berlin International Film Festival Firstly, Jafar Panahi isn’t supposed to be making films at all. This is something that everybody knows who cares about Iranian film at all, of course, and it doesn’t need repeating, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/13 & 10/15World premiere: 26 April, 2013, HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival Winner of the Gold Hugo for Best Documentary There is an Iranian man, Mahmood Kiyani Falavarjani, whose life in even the most succinct terms is so unbelievably interesting that a whole series of feature length documentaries might just about be […]

This Is Not a Film. It is a legend passed around by cinephiles, of how Jafar Panahi, the director of several great, politically incendiary Iranian films (including The Circle and Offside), having been arrested by the government and forbidden from making any movies for 20 years, in addition to a six-year prison sentence, was able […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/16 & 10/17 & 10/20WORLD PREMIERE One of the beautiful things about internationally-minded film festivals is that provide a window into unfamiliar cultures, by bringing to one’s attention the smaller sort of foreign film than the kind likely to get a widespread international release; and in so doing, reveal that the prestigious […]

Typically, a movie gets just one opening gambit, and most are too scared to take the opportunity. Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation gets two, and it makes both of them count: first, we see passports being photocopied, from a perspective inside the copier, one after the other, a different one every time, without anyone ever coming […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/11 & 10/13 & 10/15 World premiere: 14 May, 2011, Cannes Film Festival There have been many films about the confounded lot of women in contemporary Iran (and given how incredibly shitty that lot seems to be, it’s not the sort of thing I feel compelled to complain about), and on that […]