This was the movie we were going to see when the Russian Tank flick intervened and we ended up having to make a late show in Beverly Hills to get it. But interesting films seem harder and harder to find, even from other countries, and this one had an intriguing, darkly comic premise.
Our hero Hasan is a blacklisted filmmaker who hasn’t been able to make a movie in over two years, relegated to doing bugspray commercials, losing his girlfriend, pissing off his wife (they have an understanding) while a serial killer runs around Iran killing all the great Persian filmmakers.
Hasan is increasingly concerned that he has yet to be targeted while a bunch of hacks are being hacked up (decapitated, specifically) his own genius is going unrecognized. At one point, he has a little breakdown and his mother reassures him that soon the killer will be coming for him. But all this is played out against a social media backdrop that Hasan doesn’t really understand and increasingly views as a hostile entity gunning for him. Ultimately, it becomes his goal to be validated in that consciousness, the Instagram world where random strangers accuse him of the most heinous crimes.
He has a stalker, too. A friend of his daughter wants to be in his movies and at least feigns attraction to him. (He’s not interested, though you can sorta see the wheels turning on that one.) But even that story is diverted by the power of social media.
The opening sequence has girls in hijabs running down the sidewalk taking Instagram selfies. Iran is weird. The presence of tyranny results in a kind of inchoate fear (as in Hasan’s inability to get a movie made for pissing off some cleric somewhere, presumably) mixes with the general incompetence of the oppressors and the irrepressibly modern Persian spirit and creates a sense of surrealism whether presented in a grim way or a comic one.
Despite the heavy-handed satire, director Mani Haghighi leans more toward the slapstick than the pretentious even when dabbling in a moment of cinematic surrealism: Hasan is arrested on suspicion of the murders—in Iran when you are arrested, they apparently don’t just handcuff you, they blindfold you—and then thrown in to solitary confinement for an undetermined period of time. Hasan is a big heavy metal fan—his wardrobe seems to consist entirely of shorts and heavy-metal-themed t-shirts—and begins to hallucinate being a guitarist, on stage, performing a song with full band and backup singers.
This is broken by guards letting him out of his cell, and dumping him out in the desert. Apparently because when you’re released in Iran, regardless of being cleared, they drop you off in the middle of nowhere. Later, this turns out to have been a dream, though Hasan holds it against the relatively fair-minded detective on his case for the rest of the movie.
Much like 50 Kilos, this movie veers between near-slapstick level comedy to grim (in this case very black) humor, and if never quite reaches the sublime level, it’s still a fun, rollicking way to spend 1:40. We were glad we saw it.