Mar 4, 2013

Monday's Words of Wisdom

This week's link roundup is a busy one, but I couldn't leave any of these three great articles out.

First up is a piece over at Fandor, by Iranian critic and editor-in-chief of Iran's Film Monthly magazine, Hooshang Golmakani. The magazine is Iran's oldest and most prestigious publication dedicated to film and Golmakani and his erudite, eloquent group of writers had a huge influence on me during my formative years when I was still living in Tehran. It is no exaggeration to say they shaped my undying love for the medium, so I hold him in extremely high regard.

In this new piece, he's listed the 50 films he considers to be essential to a comprehensive knowledge of Iranian cinema. Needless to say, it includes many of the masterpieces of Iranian New Wave, the socially conscious, subversive films from the pre-revolution era, and several commercial hits that are integral to the importance of cinema in the fabric of Iranian culture. But any list that boils down the history of a massive film industry to just fifty titles is bound to have a few blind spots and I couldn't let this article go without bringing up a few of the eyebrow-raising omissions.

Bahram Beizaei's Ragbar (Downpour, 1971) is a quintessential piece, one that married the arthouse with the commercial and caused a cultural stir at the time. Although he mentions three of Kiarostami's films, including his Palme d'or winning Taste of Cherry, I'm still surprised Close-up is not one of those three. It's turning out to be the director's most universally acclaimed film (as evidenced by its placement on the Sight & Sound poll) and I assumed such international acclaim should count for something here, though the film has never been one of Kiarostami's most popular with Iranian critics. Reza Motori and Dash Akol are both staples of pre-revolutionary social cinema so it's curious to see them miss out, as well as The House is Black, Forough Farrokhzad's landmark documentary which I've discussed in detail here. The most shocking omission, however, comes in the form of Ebrahim Hatamikia's The Glass Agency (1997), an intense and incendiary political film that was controversial despite being approved by the government and remains not just popular, but incredibly relevant to this day. All that being said, Golmakani has my eternal respect for including Redhat and Cousin (pictured above), a children's puppet film that is almost solely responsible for igniting my love for cinema. His full list is posted here.

Fellow Team Experiencer, Joe Reid, has a new piece up at Tribeca Film, in which he discusses the most common types of characters we see in documentary films these days. It turns out The Misfit and The Sage are my favorite types, but this bit on The Self Promoter is absolutely spot-on:

"Joan Rivers is a woman working in her seventies in an industry (showbiz) that values youth, and a subculture (stand-up comedy) that could not be less tailored to someone of her age and gender. She's scrapping for every bit of notoriety that she can get because she honestly doesn't know what's there for her if she doesn't. That kind of pathos can make someone like Mr. Brainwash in Exit Through the Gift Shop seem pretty silly, but Banksy's film makes Brainwash's brand of commercialized outsider art a self-reflexive meta-narrative."
You can read his full piece here.

Finally, because there might still be some of you out there who don't quite know how much I love Tabu, let me point you to this terrific review of Miguel Gomes' masterpiece over at Mile High Cinema, where Joaquin Villalobos channels many of my thoughts on the film. He's almost as impressed as I am and thankfully a much better writer than me so his review is a must-read.
"Gomes presents their story not with techniques mimicking silent film, but with a careful lack thereof more closely resembling a beginning filmmaker with a new Bolex. Natural non-diegetic sound is used to fill in conversations a 16mm camera couldn’t record and the ghosting effect of an incorrectly loaded camera takes on a rare charm. All of this creates a marvelous sense of discovery in the natural world, reckless emotions, and a tale’s formative elements and endurance. The grandiosity and densely-layered tangents in Tabu make it feel like the novel Márquez never got around to writing or that maybe Hemingway scrapped as his desire for a woman kept persisting in between fraternal enterprise on an African mountain."
You can read his review here.

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