Saturday, January 21, 2012

Asghar Farhadi: A Seperation

Peyman Moadi, Sareh Bayat, A Seperation, Sony Pictures Classics, 2012.

With the enigma of its simple complexities, its rich social milieu and naked emotionalism, a small Iranian film once more sweeps across to our semi-barren shores to teach the Hollywood bigwigs why it is we even make and watch movies in the first place. The Iranian New Wave brought forth the apparently minor facets in all our lives and made them shine in a singularly poetic way. Where would the cinema be without the mystic mastery of Kiarostami, Mehrjui, Makmahlbaf, Panahi, Majidi and many more?

Asghar Farhadi has been quietly building a contemplative body of work which discreetly breaks down barriers. Barriers of language, culture, sex, class, etc. This societal seperation has colored all of his output. Recent pictures Fireworks Wednesday and About Elly touched on these themes with the contemplative force of a Cassavetes or an Ozu.

A Seperation, then, is Farhadi's cornerstone, and by the looks of it, his breakthrough and a pivotal moment in modern cinema. A moment when the purity of truth  and human drama trumps all the stylistic grandstanding and empty evocations across the world film scene. An intimate family drama, a nail-biting suspenser, Farhadi blurs the line of what exactly his film is, which lends it an air of mystery that envelopes the viewer as we experience the brilliantly fraught drama days of a seperated couple. Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami (sublime in Mehrjui's Leila) delineate the fragile states of their characters fruitfully, both nailed into their characters as their very characters are nailed to the roles their culture has assigned to them.

Family problems involving a grandfather with Alzheimer's, a slippery, unmakeable nurse (Sareh Bayat) and her watchful young daughter, as well as her sociopathic husband (Shahab Hosseini) all intertwine ingeniously. Sarina Farhadi as the protagonists' torn adolescent daughter is excellent, as is the entire ensemble.

Makmahlbaf's old dp Mahmoud Kalari, lights the proceedings with a regularity which draws us into the puzzle. Editor Hayedeh Safiyari, charged from his kinetic work with Bahman Ghobadi, cuts the picture with an intensity bordering on the intrinsic.

Farhadi's picture is layered and ultimately mortal, in that anybody can identify with the feelings coursing through the celluloid, which is where its strength really lies. Drawing on his love for Italian Neo-realism (as all Iranian directors do, they identify with its purity) and the artistry of John Cassavetes' wild cinema verite, Asghar Farhadi has announced himself as a major auteur.

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