This must be “Axis of Evil” week here at paulydeathwish.com 🙂
As I have stated recently to a friend.
George W. Bush was the worst President the United States has ever seen.
And Barack Obama was probably the second-worst.
So what does that make me?
Let’s get to that question (if you even care to know) by a circuitous route, shall we?
First, we must again praise the people of Iran.
It was long ago that I saw my first Iranian film.
Taste of Cherry.
It was such a profound experience.
There I was.
In a movie theater in Austin.
And I couldn’t have given a shit about cinema.
But I was there.
For some reason.
God only knows why.
And I saw a movie which in many ways changed my life.
[but it took many years to sink in]
Even so, I came to regard the name of its director (Abbas Kiarostami) with a sort of awe.
Yet, I doubted.
[as we all well should]
And so I said to the cinema gods, “Let Kiarostami perform his miracle again…if he be so brilliant!”
And he did.
I was supposed to be watching Life, and Nothing More…
But I made a mistake.
Because my French is so bad.
[you know, Kiarostami died in Paris last year (may God rest his soul)]
I needed 1991, but I chose 1990.
And it was another miracle.
I don’t know.
نمای نزدیک ?
[“Klūzāp”? Or “nemā-ye nazdīk”?]
Because the unfailing Google Translate (now the second-most popular “tr” search after “Trump” [as “translate”]) tells me that both terms mean “close-up”.
But who can translate Trump?
Perhaps only an Iranian?
Well, we would be in good hands if director Jafar Panahi was that man.
Because Mr. Panahi has made a film which is of the same rarefied air as the two Kiarostami films which I have referenced.
The work is called Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, and it is currently available on Netflix in the U.S.
No, it’s not a really trite game show.
No, it’s not some premise for an uncreative pornographer.
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi ( تاکسی) pushes the limits of barebones filmmaking in much the same way that the Palestinian masterpiece 5 Broken Cameras did.
[yes, I know the latter film was an Israeli coproduction…with an Israeli co-director…but the film was very much Palestinian in its inmost heart]
What our director Mr. Panahi adds to the method (budget cinematography) is an uncertainty of reality.
Frankly, I have never seen a film quite like Jafar Panahi’s Taxi.
Is it a documentary? Is it staged?
One thing’s for sure.
If it’s staged, the injured man and his wailing wife deserve Oscars “toot sweet”!
Truly, it is panic-inducing…
Which is not true of this film in general.
No, dear eggshell friends (if you’re out there)…don’t be afraid.
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi will only take you on a “wondrous boat ride” (so to speak) for a brief, more-or-less manageable period of time.
The rest of the film is fascinating…engrossing…painfully and gloriously perplexing.
Yes, Mr. Panahi borrows Kiarostami’s favorite device: filming from a moving vehicle.
But so what?!?
Panahi was an assistant director to Kiarostami.
And Abbas certainly wasn’t the first to film out of a car window.
But let’s examine for a moment…
Yes, the special part of this method is that the camera is turned INWARDS.
And so we feel we are seeing Homayoun Ershadi vacillate between life and death…all over again.
Or we feel we are seeing the calm, gracious mannerisms of Mohsen Makhmalbaf transposed from motorcycle to taxicab.
But what we are seeing most of all is a director stepping in front of the camera.
And Chaplin before him.
Godard has done it to excellent effect as well.
And Jafar Panahi is like an empty reed of meditation as he navigates an unending stream of chaos which enters his faux-taxi.
But the most poignant moments are when Hana Saeidi reminds us of the childish joy of being an auto passenger…and when the lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh addresses us…we, the watchers of cinema.
Who will watch those watching the watchers?
It’s like Juvenal in a hall of mirrors.
But Ms. Sotoudeh breaks the fourth wall and takes us to a very special place.
And so, again, frankly: we don’t know how Jafar Panahi’s Taxi was ever made.
Isn’t Iran one of the most intolerant countries on Earth?
Just what is going on here??
All of this Shostakovich-ean rebellion is really breathtaking when under the microscope of close viewing.
But Jafar Panahi remains stone-faced.
Like Buster Keaton.
Yet, this is largely no comedy.
This is a big “fuck you” to the government of Iran.
And yet, it is the most subtle “fuck you” ever committed to film.
Only a genius can do such things.
Yes, dear friends. Mr. Panahi has been banned from making films.
And yet he made one.
And then another.
And then this one.
So we salute you, Mr. Panahi.
We appreciate such in America.
<–fuck you, fuck you–>, and most of all…fuck you ^
That is freedom.
It is ugly.
But it works.
And so as a Donald Trump supporter (yes, me), I say, “bring it on, you whiny, sub-literate protesters!”
Maybe they’re right.
But it’s their right.
And so we mix and knead.
And we need the yeast of dissent to ever grow again.
Let’s bake some goddamned bread, people!