|I am Diego Maradona|
A Nos Amours (Pialat, 1983, 7.9)
My first experience with Maurice Pialat's career is a film that makes me want to dive into his works. Tender, observant and soaked in sunlit beauty, A Nos Amours is a quiet gem.
Night Shift (Karimi, 2014, 7.7)
Once the greatest star of Iranian Cinema, Niki Karimi's recent shift to directing has proved her to be one of the most keen observers of women's issues in Iranian cinema, not that Night Shift's male protagonist is at all short on complexity. This is a challenging and thought provoking marital drama and superbly acted by Leila Zare and Mohammad Reza Foroutan.
I am Diego Maradona (Tavakoli, 2015, 8.0)
Tavakoli is truly one of the most exciting voices emerging in Iranian cinema today. Diego Maradona's theatrical structure, wacky effects and never-ending dialogue will no doubt be irritating for some, but if you're on the same wavelength, this is a near masterpiece. This brand of innovative storytelling is something Iranian cinema has sorely lacked, and it's all the better for its appearance.
Death of the Fish (Hejazi, 2015, 7.9)
Hejazi's first three films were all interesting misfires, but Death of the Fish is a massive leap forward. Featuring a staggering ensemble cast and a keen eye for small moments of tender human connection between its characters, the film's sparse narrative crawls under our screen and lingers long after. A genuinely moving story about loss and grief.
Magic Mike XXL (Jacobs, 2015, 7.1)
Not quite as moving or profound as the first installment but a hell of a lot of fun, with an array of memorable sequences that are endlessly rewatchable, the supermarket scene and the gathering at Andie MacDowell's house chief among them.
The Martian (Scott, 2015, 7.3)
Ridley Scott is such a capable director at making fun films that don't need to create or capture a mythology and does one of his best recent works here. The same can more or less be said of Matt Damon, whose charming turn is among his strongest performances.
Sicario (Villeneuve, 2015, 7.6)
Although the film's positions on the war on drugs--however vaguely defined and superficial--are questionable, as a formal achievement, Sicario is quite incredible. Villeneuve and team have created a gorgeous, tense and engaging film.
Crazy Rook (Davoodi, 2015, 6.7)
Extremely contrived plotting, but nevertheless consistently thrilling and unpredictable. No surprise that the ensemble cast of some of the most talented young actors in Iran play so energetically off each other, balancing the film's tricky back and forth between twisted crime narrative and campy horror. This is a total crowd-pleaser.
The Circle (Panahi, 2000, 9.0)
"The bleak picture painted of the lives of lower-class women in The Circle is troubling to watch, but not because the film is blunt in its presentation; rather, the effect of the characters’ devastating stories crawls under our skin and lingers long after the film."
Taxi (Panahi, 2015, 6.8) (essay)
"Taxi is engaging and, for the most part, very funny, but by its episodic nature, tonally inconsistent, resulting in a film that is occasionally brilliant, but frequently frustrating. For an artist previously so attuned to the intricacies of his society, Taxi is uncharacteristically patronizing...The succession of stories that Panahi has collected gives the impression that he’s running through a checklist of issues and stereotypes about Iranian society, but rarely does the film arrive at anything profound."