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Jun 2, 2014

Screening Log: May

Where Is the Friend's Home?


Filth (Baird, 2014, C-) (review)
The hodgepodge of genre elements, loose narrative threads and ungainly tonal shifts keep the audience at a distance, a point from which everything appears increasingly bizarre and meaningless.

Homework (Kiarostami, 1989, B)
A crushing experience, made up almost entirely of interview with young school children about their homework routine, that exposes the limitations of the Iranian school system, the violent consequences of illiteracy and the disturbing effects of bullying. Only a filmmaker of Kiarostami's magnitude can make a conversation with a young child about his school work unwatchable because of its sheer forcefulness.

Where Is the Friend's Home? (Kiarostami, 1987, A+)
It isn't merely for thematic resonance that Kiarostami titles his film after Sohrab Sepehri's eponymous poem; the film fills the screen with all the deceptive simplicity and poetic elegance of Sepehri's sparse, modernist ruminations. The story of one boy's journey to take a classmate's notebook home is elevated to a near spiritual experience, soulful and deeply rooted in the fabric of Northern Iran's rural culture.

First Graders (Kiarostami, 1984, C+)
Kiarostami's earlier works for Kanun (Centre for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults) was a fund of graceful, subtle stories about children. First Graders, on the other hand, is delicate but also a moralistic lesson delivered without disguise, in a structurally repetitive work that doesn't fully pay off in the end.

First Case. Second Case. (Kiarostami, 1979, B)
An exceptional time capsule of the nation in flux in the transition years between the Pahlavi era and the Islamic Republic with all its turmoil and identity crises . This is not one of the director's most innovative films but the contrasting presences, ideologies and the film's history with the censor's makes it one of the most vital in his filmography.

A Suit for the Wedding (Kiarostami, 1976, A-)
An incredible achievement in directing, Suit takes an impossibly simple premise to unimaginable heights as a thriller, a treatise on social inequality and an exploration on bullying among young kids. 

The Report (Kiarostami, 1977, A)
Scenes from a (shattering) marriage. Formally and thematically an anomaly in Kiarostami's oeuvre, but one of his richest works; a morally challenging, multi-faceted portrait of the break-up of a family that acts as a microcosm of a society on the brink of crumbling unto itself.

The Traveller (Kiarostami, 1974, B+)
One of Kiarostami's most openly political and critical films, and unusually classicist in construction. An indictment of social inequality and the failed school system in the final years of the Pahlavi era, packed with a stronger emotional punch than most of the auteur's output.

The Chorus (Kiarostami, 1982, N/A)
A simple conceit, told in a humorous and irony-tinged fashion. An instrument of modernity allows man to retreat from the mayhem of modernity to the serenity of the past, only to be thrown back into the reality of today's world. A real gem.

The Experience (Kiarostami, 1973, A-)
The extremely personal original story was written by Amir Naderi, whose fascination with stories of destitute children shapes the bleak atmosphere of the film, but Kiarostami's authorial stamp is on the film's elegant structure and the richness of its wordless empty spaces.

Orderly or Disorderly? (Kiarostami, 1981, N/A)
Perfecting the dual structure of Two Solutions For One Problem, Kiarostami's educational film about the superiority of social order to disorder effectively becomes a meta-textual commentary on the state of Iranian filmmaking at the time.

Colours (Kiarostami, 1976, N/A)
Strictly educational for children – the film basically teaches kids about primary and secondary colours – it is nevertheless a distinctly Iranian work that elicits nostalgia in viewers of a certain age, while exhibiting the directors attention to the specificities that instill meaning in the mundane

Breaktime (Kiarostami, 1972, N/A)
An expansion of the ideas that Kiarostami began to explore in his debut short - a child being thrust into an adult world - Breaktime is a richer film, depicting the complexity of this mismatched interaction in visually subtle ways.

Godzilla (Edwards, 2014, B-)
Staggeringly beautiful and complicated in its atmospheric visual construction but ultimately meaningless and thus unmemorable.

Two Solutions For One Problem (Kiarostami, 1975, N/A)
Almost an antithesis to the director's later storytelling methods, there is nothing elusive about this educational short film but the lesson is delivered with humour and wit.

We're The Millers (Thurber, 2013, D-)
Agonizingly stupid and exhaustingly crude.

Zoolander (Stiller, 2001, A)
Stiller's fashion industry satire somehow manages to get funnier and smarter upon every revisit. One of the most rewatchable films of all time and the jewel in Stiller's acting and directing careers.

The Possibilities Are Endless (Lovelace/Hall, 2014, B/B+) (review)
Formally innovative and absolutely heartbreaking. Possibilities recreates a haunting environment around its subject in stylish fashion and gains our sympathies without relying on cliched documentary tropes.

The Secret Trial 5 (Wala, 2014, B-) (review)
An essential documentary, if formally insignificant, because of the subject matter it tackles and potential political and personal ramifications on the lives of Muslims in North America.

Beyond Clueless (Lyne, 2014, B/B+) (review)
Cleverly constructed to mirror the narrative arc of a high school film, this visual essay on teen characters in Hollywood movies at the turn of the century is equal parts incisive and entertaining, with the added bonus of Fairuza Balk's narration.

The Double (Ayoade, 2013, B/B+) (review)
Ayoade's adaptation of Dostoevsky's The Double, via Kafka, Orwell and Gilliam lacks the psychological depth of character that enriches the original text, but it establishes the directors as one of the most exciting voices of his generation.

Mad As Hell (Napier, 2014, C+) (review)
A true depiction of the American dream in all its infuriating and inspiring glory, slickly shot but formally dull and repetitive.

Living Stars (Cohn/Duprat, 2014, C+) (review)
The premise of the film - a compilation of Argentine men, women and children of all ages and social strata dancing to international hits - is intriguing, but its point about the universality of dance is neither rich nor fresh enough to sustain it.

Bread and Alley (Kiarostami, 1970, N/A)
An inauspicious debut but one that foreshadows many of the director's formal interests and thematic concerns. Simple, cyclical and beautiful in a breezy way.

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