Asghar Farhadi

The Past

“I’m nobody in this story.” By the time Ahmed (Ali Mosaffa, consistently solid throughout the film) utters that comment halfway through Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, it’s far too late in the narrative and too deep into the story to hold much water. After all, Ahmed is not a nobody in the A Separation director’s latest tale of domestic disruptions, and neither is the woman who lies in a coma many miles away, or the man who has started a new life somewhere in Brussels, or any number of other nameless participants in the film’s various characters’ pasts that we never meet. It’s called The Past for a reason, not The Future or The Present, but it might as well be called The Past People in Our Lives We Can’t Forget and Move Away From and This is The Result of All of That Stuff. It’s certainly not as snappy, however. While the basic plotline of The Past sounds salacious – a man returns after many years to divorce a wife who already has a new husband lined up and he discovers many secrets along the way – it’s surprisingly tame in execution. The film could easily be tailored to fit the needs of an American studio, with Ahmed starring as the out-of-town-ex who transforms a mixed family with his charm, level thinking, and delicious cooking (think Uncle Buck with more complicated relationships). At least, that’s what happens for the first half of the movie, with Ahmed playing unexpected peacekeeper between […]

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review past

Divorce is rarely a scenario in which anyone wins, least of all the children, as A Separation director Asghar Faradi reminds us once again in his latest feature, The Past, which has been widely touted as one of the Cannes Film Festival’s hottest tickets and a sure-fire Palme d’Or frontrunner. While failing to quite live up to the heart-wrenching moral dilemmas of the director’s previous film, The Past offers up plenty of provocative notions about the state of the contemporary family unit, wrapped around a thoroughly engrossing central mystery. The story begins as Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) is summoned to France by his estranged wife of four years, Marie (Berenice Bejo), to finalize their long-gestating divorce. However, Ahmad soon enough uncovers quite the familial powder keg once he realizes that Marie’s current partner, Samir (Tahir Rahim), has near-enough set up shop with her despite the fact that he has a wife in an eight-month-long coma following a suicide attempt. It is the character of Samir’s wife who, though seen on screen for roughly just a minute in total, forms the crux of the film’s dramatic tension.

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Culture Warrior

In the late 1990s, two quite divergent Iranian films were recognized on the Western stage. During the 1999 Academy Awards, Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven, a touching Satyajit Ray-like neorealist drama about a pair of siblings searching for lost shoes, became the first Iranian film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Two years earlier, in May 1997, Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist exercise Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first Iranian film to do so. By the tail end of the twentieth century, Iran had made its way onto the stage of world-renowned arthouse filmmaking. While other cinematically underrepresented nations have oscillated in and out of prominence as the place where great new movies are being pioneered (South Korea, Romania), Iran has consistently, albeit quietly, given the West a limited but incredible output of challenging and innovative films.

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Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon still celebrating Marcel Pagnol’s birthday, Cole was left to write this week’s entry. Please don’t riot. Every so often, The History Channel will play The Planet of the Apes, and it freaks me out. In recent years, the station has lost the meaning of its name completely, but a few years ago, I genuinely worried that someone would stumble upon the movie in progress, see the logo at the bottom, and be convinced that there was a time in Earth’s history that we were ruled by simians. There’s no proof, but considering that people have tried to rob banks with permanent marker all over their faces as a “disguise,” it seems possible that at least one person would be confused by a non-fiction station about our past playing a fictional movie where Moses pounded his fist into the sand in horror. Maybe there’s no real danger of that, but it still displays a certain power that movies have. They, like all stories, are how we share with each other. From person to person, from culture to culture, movies provide a certain shared sentience. A great story, told well, can transport and give insight into What It’s Like, especially in a world where photography and audio recording are relatively new technologies. The hitch is that there are still limitations to the art. The camera always lies, so even as we grasp toward understanding, it’s easy to be misled when it comes to experiences we have no personal […]

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

Hey, who says there are no original ideas in Hollywood? Well, us actually, whenever we have to write about the next 80s-era television show getting a big screen reboot that no one on God’s green earth could possibly want to flash in front of their eyeballs on a giant cinema screen. But this year, there were at least five films that sprung from original ideas that were solid enough to get the ol’ Best Original Screenplay nod. Really, at least five. There’s five in this category! There could be more, but I’m too busy thinking about the Valley Girl reboot to come up with any of them right now. Giggles and bad jokes aside, this year’s Oscar race for Best Original Screenplay is actually pretty, well, original. We’ve got an awards season frontrunner, a raunchy lady-centric comedy (how often do you hear “raunchy” when it comes to the Academy Awards? Not often, that’s how often), a Sundance flick about the financial crisis, a foreign film getting all sorts of (well-deserved) praise, and the latest from one of the Academy’s most nominated filmmakers. This category is truly one hell of mixed bag. What’s perhaps most interesting about this race is that it four of its nominations belong to newcomers to the Oscars, while its fifth nominee is Woody Allen, who has received more nominees in this category (15) than any other screenwriter in the history of the awards. But does that little bit of trivia spell “winner”? Read on for the […]

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium. But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum. The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

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A man and a woman sit before a judge discussing the dissolution of their marriage. Simin wants to move out of the country with her husband and daughter in tow, but Nader refuses as he needs to stay and care for his ill and elderly father. She can go, he says, but she cannot take their daughter. The judge agrees, and the two are dismissed back to the turmoil of their private lives. This simple setup could be the start of any number of familiar dramas in most countries around the globe, but Simin and Nader are a modern day Iranian couple which puts an unusual and rarely seen spin on the story that follows. What starts as a straight forward tale of one couple’s split becomes an exploration into the many divisions in their life. The separation between them is simply the first step into the gap between parent and child, male and female, right and wrong, and truth and fiction. A Separation is a mesmerizing journey into the everyday, but it’s an everyday that has remained foreign to much of the Western world.

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A group of college friends arrive at a seaside villa for a relaxing weekend, but there’s one partial stranger in the mix. Elly has been invited along in the hopes that she strike up a romance with one of the single men. The calm ends when an idyllic afternoon is shattered in a scene of pure chaos and uncertainty as one of the children, seemingly left unattended, is found floating in the ocean. And Elly has disappeared.

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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