Posts Tagged ‘VOD’

One Night in Miami (2020) ***

Dir: Regina King | Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr. | US Drama, 110′

Four major forces of the black community come together in Regina King’s discursive and smouldering imagined drama that occasionally sparks into life.

It’s February 25th, 1964 and Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke find themselves together in a motel room for a night of lively debate in the wake of the civil rights movement, Clay having just emerged from the Miami Beach Convention Centre as the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World.

King sets just the right tone working from a script by Kemp Powers that immediately transports us back to the era with a dynamic opening sequence that leads into some compelling exchanges with these charismatic characters convincingly captured, Ben-Adir is particularly impressive as Malcolm X.  But the film rapidly runs out of steam as the discourse drags on into a rather claustrophobic chamber piece, occasionally glinting with the odd contretemps – a case in point is Malcolm X’s criticism of Sam Cooke’s musical style. King rescues the final stretch ending on an upbeat note to give this worthwhile outing a positive outcome. One Night will be remembered for its commanding and nuanced performances that will remain a cinematic tribute to the cultural icons of the day. MT

VOD RELEASE ON MAJOR PLATFORMS

76 Days (2020) **** VOD

Dirs: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous | Wri: Hao Wu | Doc, 2020 China, 91′

Not as hard-hitting as you would imagine, and in some ways faintly amusing given the repercussions that would follow, this cinema vérité snapshot of the first COVID outbreak takes us back to Wuhan, China where it all began, the rest of the world still blissfully unaware and innocently going about its business.

In a Wuhan hospital a woman cries out in anguish as the body of her father is hurriedly sealed in orange plastic by a group of hazmat-suited medics who then hurtle back through the corridors to deliver the toxic bundle into a waiting black van.

Towering skyscrapers dwarf a twinkling ambulance racing over the massive bridge that straddles the vast Yangtze river (think Golden Gate without the glamour), as the city is plunged into a hush-hush yet draconian lockdown, marshalled citizens falling into rank as they meekly obey the eerie tanoyed announcements to ‘stay in their homes’.

Wuhan is a major industrial city in Hubei province, Eastern China, but the scale of the crisis in the four hospitals where the doc was filmed, by director Hao Wu (People’s Republic of Desire) and reporter Weixi Chen, takes on an intimate yet respectfully buttoned-down detached community atmosphere. You never see a medic’s face, such is level of PPE, yet the (mostly old) patients stay wrapped in their own colourful padded jackets as they are tucked up in bed and told to sleep – almost like kids – and referred to as ‘grandma, and grandpa; the middle-aged sufferers; aunty and uncle.

Although the grief and panic is feverishly palpable there is a ordered and kindly feel to proceedings as patients’ personal possessions – in China that means mobile phones – are wiped down with alcohol and placed in plastic bags. There is no triage system here: this is a close up and personal system where the medics themselves deal face to face with the oncoming stream of stricken public who rattle the door handles of hospital’s modest entrance, demanding to be seen first: “Any vomiting or diarrhoea?, Okay – let him go first, he’s limping” says the matron.

The documentary began shortly after the January 23rd lockdown in Wuhan, the filmmakers maintaining a strictly observational eye on the unfolding crisis. There are moments of dark humour surrounding an old fisherman – the doc’s main protagonist – who has found his way into the system and can’t seem to find his way out, although he appears to be suffering from dementia rather than Covid, judging from his candid take on events. The doctors keep forcing him back into his room, telling him to wear his mask ‘properly’: “What a way to treat a person” he laments fractiously. Later he has decided to stay: “Not bad – free food and medicine here, where I come from is so backward”.

Apparently the shoot inside public hospital facilities wasn’t government-sanctioned. Hao was researching a project for an American network, who then abandoned the story when Covid went global, but he continued his own filming using  reporter Chen (and his colleague chose to remain anonymous). They have created this raw and immediate take on an outbreak that purportedly originated in Wuhan’s wet markets in the vicinity of the hospitals, and would result in the death of millions worldwide – not to mention the economic, social and political repercussions.

No doubt there will soon be a ‘Covid’ genre – we have already seen a Belgian outing: I Am Not a Hero and Alex Gibney’s Totally Under Control, and there are more to come. The filmmakers formally requested that none of the hospital staff be mentioned or identified “to avoid any potential government interference with the film”. The only possible clues to their identity are available in the delightful drawings that were sketched in marker pen on the medics’ PPE gowns, and they possibly included their names (if you can read Mandarin).

In early April 2020, 76 days after the crisis erupted the Wuhan lockdown is lifted, and air raid sirens mark a gloomy tribute to the dead, masked citizens stopping to pay their respects in the streets, where some are visibly moved to tears. Their government clearly didn’t have the same respect for the World’s wider community in their bid to play down the crisis. But amongst these locals a strong sense of civil cooperation and commitment to a common cause is admirable and poignant. MT

ON RELEASE in the UK | VOD 22 January 2021

 

 

 

Pieces of a Woman (2020) VOD

Dir: Kornel Mundruczo | Drama, 127’

Nothing prepares us for sudden death. But the most confusing part of bereavement is how is it affects those around us, and particularly those nearest to us. And this unexpected behaviour is the crux of Kornel Mundruczo’s latest film. It looks at how the loss of a child affects a professional Bostonian woman called Martha (Vanessa Kirby/The Crown) and her stevedore partner, a recovering alcoholic who hails from Seattle (Shia Leboeuf).

The Hungarian director’s first outing in English is as deeply flawed as the title suggests, a tonal mishmash: moving in parts but totally incoherent in others. The euphoric early arthouse scenes – impressively shot in one 24 minute take – show the couple during the birth, and these intensely personal moments are graphic in detail. Almost too much so. But the baby dies shortly after she is born leaving the couple in disarray and arguments and recriminations follow. And as Boston descends into a freezing winter, amid wide panoramic shots of the Charles River, so Martha retreats into herself cutting Sean adrift in an icy silence.

Based on his own personal experiences this is clearly a cathartic film for the director writing with his real life partner Kata Weber. But the film soon drifts into a more glossy family drama where the grief-stricken Martha is persuaded by her controlling mother (Ellen Burstyn in formidable form) to seek compensation from the midwife. As Martha’s relationships deteriorate all round her so the storyline unravels with no real sense of direction. There is a fraught mother-daughter strand; an imploding relationship breakdown where class and racial conflicts enter the fray – Martha is a tough Jewish uptown girl, Sean is soft-hearted but given to brutal outbursts. Their attractions are also part of their downfall when things don’t go according to plan.

Sarah Snook, Martha’s distant cousin, is hired to fight their case as the lawyer taken on to prosecute midwife Eva. And Martha’s mother, a steely Holocaust survivor, offers invaluable advice to daughters everwhere: “you have to take a stand and tell your truth, otherwise you can never move on”. You might not like her but you’d certainly want her on your side: “and when you do move on, burn your bridges”, is another chestnut.

The actors all do their best to carry the film forward and Ellen Burstyn is the most impressive, Leboeuf stymied by an underwritten role. But the script is so focussed on Martha’s simmering resentment that the final reveal – in a coruscating court scene – bears no relation to what has gone before, leaving us unprepared and perplexed.

The unsuccessful shift from arthouse to Hollywood melodrama could be due to various big names jumping on board the project with their money and therefore demanding a schmaltzy Hollywood happy ending, Martin Scorsese has put his money behind the project as exec producer but Mundruczo’s departure from his arthouse style is a bewildering film, certainly watchable but vaguely unsatisfying. MT

NOW ON VOD RELEASE | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL  2020

Dear Comrades! (2020) **** VOD

Dir: Andrei Konchalovsky | Drama, Russia 120′

Veteran Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky uncovers a little known episode of the Nikita Krushchev era – the Novercherkassk Massacre  of June 1962 – in this elegant and restrained black and white feature filmed on academy ratio.

A follow-up to his last Venice offering – Sin – an imagined drama about Michelangelo – this is a more down to earth film but its refined gracefulness pictures the seriousness of the incident with a lightness of touch and even a dash of sardonic humour.

Dear Comrades! plays out during three days and is viewed through the eyes of a working woman played often vehemently by the director’s wife and regular collaborator Julia Vysotskaya. Lyuda is divorced and living with her daughter and father in the Southern city where she is a committed Communist Party official who yearns for the days of Stalin, despite its abuses which would lead to millions of Russians losing their lives. We instantly connect with her from the opening scene where she is in a rush to leave her married lover’s bed, keen to get in the supermarket queue before the shelves are emptied – due to the political regime rather than Covid19 shortages.

A strike is later announced at a local factory where Lyuda’s wilful teenage daughter Sveta (Julia Burova) is a worker and desperate to join her co-workers as they mass for the protest. Lyuda is watching the crowd swell from the balcony of her spacious offices but when the workers surge forward and break into the building she and her colleagues are advised to leave through the basement. Soon thousands are joining in the protest and the following days sees a KGB sniper shoots indiscriminately into the crowd and many civilians are killed and injured as they scatter for cover. .

The balanced script uncovers some fascinating contradictions about the Soviet era: Konchalovsky and his co-writer Elena Kiseleva are keen to point out that  the army are odds with the KGB and the forces end up taking the rap. The authorities crack down immediately ordering the main roads to be resurfaced with fresh tar macadam to hide the indelible bloodshed which has seeped into the cracks and dried in the searing sun. There is a rapid cover-up: locals are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements and sworn to secrecy upon pain of death. Meanwhile, Sveta has disappeared and Lyuda urges a KGB captain Viktor (Andrei Gusev) to help track her down.

In many ways Lyuda is a conflicted character not only for her political ideals but also for her personal ones: “Are you ashamed to share a bed with another woman’s husband?” complains her daughter when Lyuda complains about her daughter’s tarty habit of not wearing a bra.  Lyuda supports a crack-down on the protesters but when Sveta upholds her own constitutional right to protest, Lyuda tells her she should be disciplined. And the following vignette involving her father (Sergei Erlish) is a telling one as he dresses up in his military uniform and dusts down a religious icon of the Virgin Mary while reminiscing over past state abuses.

After a dignified irritation in the early scenes Lyuda start to let her emotions out of the bag in the final act, her anxiety bubbling to the surface but also her nihilistic acceptance of life under a regime which she has both aided and abetted, and is now suffering under. The final reveal topples over into a romantic sentimentalism bordering on melodrama that sits awkwardly with her stiff upper-lipped persona of the early part of the film, but this human drama is richly rewarding snapshot of life in 1960s Russia that doesn’t appear to have moved under Putin nearly sixty years later, according to Andre Konchalovsky. MT

NOW ON CURZON VOD from 15 January | Venice Film Festival 2020  | SPECIAL JURY PRIZE 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocoon (2020) *** VOD, Bluray

Dir.: Leonie Krippendorff; Cast: Lena Urzendowsky, Lena Klenke, Jella Haase, Elina Vildanova, Anja Schneider, Bill Becker; Germany 2020, 99 min.

Over a decade ago Celine Sciamma burst onto the scene with her refreshing look at lesbian romance in Water Lilies. Native Berliner Leonie Krippendorff’s seductive spin on teenage love is a contempo coming-of-age story that just manages to avoid symbolic overdrive and sentimentality.

Set in the sweltering summer heat of Kreuzberg, the capital’s answer to Hackney, the story revolves around Nora (played by an impressive Lena Urzendowsky, with already has over twenty screen credits to her name). Hanging out with her older sister  Jule (Klenke) and friend Aylin (Vildanova) and her boozy mother Vivienne (Schneider) who appears to be somewhat of an intellectual who come to life when she gets a birthday present of Judith Butler’s novel ‘Bodies that matter’, dedicated to her by a certain Twiggy, a friend from a happier chapter in her life.

Nora’s curiosity is woken when she meets the older Romy (Haase), who comes to her aid during an embarrassing poolside incident, and the girls become instant best friends bonding over boyfriends, but Romy’s not just interested in boys, or so it seems. A good deal of hazy camerawork seems appropriate for the lust-fuelled summer reverie, not unlike Pawel Pawlikovski created in My Summer of Love.

Cocoon is not that revealing, or particularly noteworthy in its love story, what stand out is the social background, showing how the girls prefer Muslim boyfriends because of their apparent faithfulness, nearly all of them repeating “I swear on the Koran”!. Perhaps this successful integration is overdone, but nevertheless, some progress has been made.

DoP Martin Neumeyer is clearly influenced by Spring Breakers, although sadly Berlin’s public swimming pools are a far cry from Florida’s beaches. Still, he captures the uniqueness of the borough of Kreuzberg which retains a certain bohemian charm in an otherwise gentrified capital city. AS

DVD, BLURAY and VOD release from 25 JANUARY 2021

Make-Up (2019) *** VOD

Dir.: Claire Oakley, Cast: Molly Windsor, Joseph Quinn, Stephanie Martin, Lisa Palfrey, Theo Barklem-Briggs; UK 2019, 86 min.

This shady seaside story of sexual discovery is the feature debut of British director Claire Oakley. Slathered in atmosphere it often feels like an extended short. In Cornwall the Autumn mists slowly descend on a run down caravan park, where eighteen-year old Ruth (Windsor) arrives to lighten things up for her boyfriend Tom (Quinn). But her growing doubts about their relationship are echoed in the September dankness setting the tone for a simmering switch in Ruth’s sexuality as she slowly develops feelings for her much older co-worker Jade (Martini), a wigmaker fond of the titular crimson red make-up.

In this visually inventive exploration of drifting sexuality, Oakley dabbles in a heady hotchpotch of genres hovering between horror and poetic realism, DoP Nick Cooke dressing it all up to look like something by Nicolas Roeg. But the underworked script relies on enigma and atmosphere to confer a deeper meaning in banal scenes where Oakley has little to express, apart from the usual coming-of-age conflict, mixed with a heavy-handed gender role reversal.

Newcomer Molly Windsor tries hard to add meaning to the cringe-worthy dialogue, but biting her nails like a little girl in distress seems to defeat  the purportedly empowering theme of Make Up. Without giving away too many spoilers, we soon get where the plot is heading: via a ‘Wicker Man’ like beach scene, with Tom and best friend Kai (Barklem-Briggs) proudly flexing their masculinity and mastery of the Cornish language. A blatantly sentimental first ending which is then trumped by a second one, is a steal from Truffaut’s debut Les Quatre Cents Coups, with Ruth taking the Antoine Doinel part. Make Up is rather a hit-and-miss affair as far as drama goes, but its efforts to engage in the ongoing LGBTQ+ narrative are laudable and worthwhile, and the film’s poster designed by Andrew Bannister is brilliant. AS

IN CINEMAS AND EXCLUSIVELY ON CURZON HOME CINEMA | 31 JULY 2020

The Rifleman | Dveselu Putensis (2019) *** Digital and DVD

Dir.: Dzintars Dreibergs; Cast: Otto Brantevics, Taimonds Celms, Martin Vilsons, Greta Trusina; Latvia 2019, 104 min.

The Rifleman pays stark witness to the horrors and brutality of the First World War, as seen through the eyes of an innocent 17-year-old farm-boy turned soldier and the tragic fate of his family.

Written by Boris Frumin and based on the 1933/34 novel by Aleksanders Grins, which was forbidden in the USSR, its author shot down in 1941. This lushly mounted historical drama was, not surprisingly, a huge success at the box-office in Latvia, and an impressive first feature for Latvia’s Dzintars Dreibergs, who made his name as sports documentarian.

The Rifleman is an unashamedly male and patriotic affair, filmed as an eyewitness report from the POV of 17-tear-old Arthurs Vanags (Brantevics), it opens in 1914 giving full emotional throttle to the murder of the young man’s mother by German soldiers, who, for good measure also kill the family’s dog. Arthur’s father (Vilsons) has served in the Russian Imperial Army, and burns down the farmhouse and shoots the cattle, before enlisting with Arthurs and his brother Edgars (Celms) in Latvia’s first National Battalion, part of the Russian forces overrun by the Germans.

Wounded in a skirmish, Arthurs soon falls for Marta (Trusina), a nurse in the field hospital. But more tragedy follows when Arthurs is asked by Red Army commanders to shoot Latvian soldiers who have disobeyed their Russian officers. Returning home, Arthurs catches up with Marta who is now working as a farmhand in Latvia, before setting out to liberate his homeland from “Tsars, Red Army and the Germans who all want to repress Latvian independence.”

DoP Valdis Celmins does a great job with his grizzly images of foggy snowbound battles, the frozen bodies reduced to ghostly spectres. Lolita Ritmanis’ evocative score is in line with this heroic approach to war, providing the emotional underpinnings to this rousing feature (1917 it is not) depicting a grim episode in Latvian history. AS

In the Showcase Cinema circuit nationwide | Sunday 26th July  
On Digital from 10th August | On DVD from 24th August 
 

Spaceship Earth (2020) **** VOD release

Dir.: Matt Wolf; Documentary with John Allen; USA 2019, 113 min.

Larger and much stranger than life, director/producer Matt Wolf (The Marion Stokes Project) has followed the eight ecologists, who, in 1991, were locked into Biosphere 1, a glass dome in Arizona, to live under conditions aping those on Mars. Animals and plants thrived, but it was not so much the conditions inside, but the human disconnections outside that clouded the experiment in controversy. Still, for a documentary that takes its time – exactly one hour – to get to the main event, Spaceship manages brilliantly to keep us enthralled.

In all starts in San Francisco in 1966: young Kathelin Gray meets a much older John Allen, whilst reading René Daumal’s ‘Mount Analogue’, Allen promises her much more than books, and together with other enthusiasts, they found the travelling theatre group Theatre of All Possibilities. Deciding that Frisco has become too commercialised, they take roots (literally) in New Mexico, living on the land, guided by the Synergy principle, naming the ranch after their motto. Later they built a ship, called the ‘Hereclitus’, naming it after the man who left his privileged life to live in harmony with everyone on earth. They met Burroughs, and adored Buckminster Fuller. Unlike most commune dwellers, they worked very hard, for little profit. But Allen, who had a sense of capitalist reality and soon found a helping hand in form of Ed Bass, a billionaire, who bought a hotel in Kathmandu for the collective, before bankrolling the Biosphere 2 dome.

The eight people, looking rather strange in their red astronaut suits were Roy Walford, Jane Poynter. Taber MacCallum, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone from Essex, Abigail Alling, Mark van Thillo and Linda Leigh. The hermetically sealed three-acre paradise of plants and animals suffered an overdose of CO2 (and  therefore a lack of oxygen), which led Dr. Walford come to the conclusion he would have to eat even less thanks to the low levels of oxygen , and could live for another 120 years. Soon oxygen was pumped in, but it degraded the scientific data. Jane Poynter got her finger stuck in the hay cutting machine, and had to leave for the hospital – coming back with an extra bag – another no-no according to the rules set up before. Media and scientists called the ecologists a ‘cult’, the grass grew limp and tempers frayed. Afterwards, Bass invited a young Steve Bannon (yes, that Bannon!), straight from Goldman Sachs, and this meant the end of the Bass/Allen relationship.  

Spaceship Earth reaches a melancholic conclusion: the founder members, John Allen and Marie Harding, – who have since married – among them, sit around a table amid an air of nostalgia. All of them have kept to the good life of the synergy days, and have stayed out of the commercial rat race, which now includes bio products and anything ‘alternative’. Watching them, we get keen sense of how far away from their heydays we have moved. DoP Sam Wootton underlines feeling of loss with his camerawork which mirrors the archive footage of the original group. To think that something as repulsive as the rip-off Bio-dome made millions at the box office, breaks your heart. AS

ON DEMAND | 10 JULY 2020 |

 

Sword of the Assassin (2012)

Dir.: Victor Vu; Cast: Huynh Dong, Van Trang, Mi Du, Kim Hien; Vietnam 2012, 100 min.

Victor Vu (Vengeful Heart) has created the first Vietnamese Wuxia (Martial Arts) film set at the time of the Le dynasty (1428-1788) in Vietnam. The hero Nguyen Vu (Dong) is the last of his family after Queen Thai Hau (Trang) has murdered the rest of his family, blaming them unjustly for the death of her husband. Vu is educated by a monk in the country side and introduced to martial arts. As a young man, he moves to the capital to seek revenge. There he meets the sisters Hoa Xuan (Du) and Hoa Ha (Hien), whose family has also suffered from the vicious Queen. Vu tries to help one of the Queen’s opponents at court to find the ‘Blood Letter’, a document written by a servant of the murdered King, whose contents would reveal the real culprits. But when Vu finds out, that his new ally only wants to become the new Emperor, he changes side and brings the revealing Letter to Thai Hau, asking her to mend her ways and stop further bloodshed.

SWORD OF THE ASSASSIN is beautiful to look at, particularly the lush landscape of Vietnam is a stunning backdrop to a narrative that is not particularly original, even though the pacifistic ending is touching. The fighting scenes are parricularly impressive, the protagonists flying through high above the ground like birds. A great watch for Wuxia fans, The Sword of the Assassin can’t compete with Ang Lee’s work, but makes a worthwhile attempt at bringing Vietnamese martial arts to the big screen. AS

OUT ON VOD FROM 15 FEBRUARY 2016

The Duke of Burgundy (2014) | Bfi Player

Duke-of-Burgundy-butterfl-001

Dir/Writer: Peter Strickland| Cast: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Ana, Monica Swinn, Eugenia Caruso | 104min UK Drama

Fusing European arthouse with English sensibilities; Peter Strickland is a unique voice. His debut Katalin Varga was a folkloric revenge drama set in Hungary; Berberian Sound Studio, a giallo-style thriller with touches of dark humour, followed. The Duke of Burgundy is a psychosexual art house curio that continues to explore and deepen his fascination with sound and texture echoing the seventies soft porn of Emmanuelle with Walerian Borocywck’s twisted humour.

The Duke has nothing to do with the aristocracy or indeed France yet  Strickland adds finesse to a story that explores the erotic intricacies of sexual powerplay between two lesbian lepidopterists in a fairytale seventies setting somewhere in Hungary. Very much a love story, it focuses on BDSM. Cleverly there is no nudity, leather or whips: the love scenes are emotional and tender.

Sidse Babett Knudsen gives a performance of considerable allure as Cynthia, the dominant sexual partner of Evelyn her submissive lover and assistant archivist cum housekeeper, gracefully played by Chiara D’Anna. Essentially a two-hander, this is a female-centric story with occasional glimpses of ‘The Institute’ where sexual frissons waft between the beautifully-dressed women scientists attending and giving sober lectures on the arcane subject of moths and butterflies.

At first it seems the draconian Cynthia is in control in her palatial mansion deep in the countryside: Each day as Evelyn arrives for work, the pair fall into a ritual which gradually leads to the bedroom and some rather fetching lingerie designed by the aptly-named, Andrea Flesch. Forcing the bird-like Evelyn to handwash her underwear in iridescent soft-focus suds (mild green Fairy Liquid never looked so appealing) and subjecting her to ‘golden showers’ (behind closed doors) at her own behest.

But after Cynthia injures her back moving the Evelyn’s birthday present (an ornate coffin where she is confined nightly at her own volition), it emerges that the servant is in fact the master – Evelyn may wash the pants but actually wears the trousers in a relationship that both universal and unusual. Paradoxically, Evelyn’s masochism is very much on her own terms: her constant need to be emotionally abused is the overriding element that puts her firmly in control in a relationship where one partner is gradually worn down in order to satisfy the sexual predilections of the other. The powerplay that ensues between the couple is subtle and convincing and leads to a languorous denouement.

Anyone who has experienced performance fatigue will find this drama particularly poignant. Annointed with touches of wry humour and DoP Nicholas Knowland’s  intoxicating visual images of insects in flight and atmospheric landscapes, this is an evocative and sensual drama from one of England’s most inventive and insightful contemporary filmmakers. MT

NOW ON BFI PLAYER 

The Patience Stone (2012) DVD/VOD

Director: Atiq Rahimi  Writer: Jean-Claude Carriere and Ariq Rahimi

Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Hamid Djavadan, Hassina Burgan, Massi Mrowat

102min   Drama    FARSI with English subtitles

This poetic follow-up to EARTH AND ASHES  is Atiq Rahimi’s second feature and based on his book which won the French literary equivalent to the Booker Prize.  Essentially a chamber piece, filmed in a dusty house (putatively during the Afghan conflict), a woman is tending to her wounded older husband who has been shot.  Golshifteh Farahani gives a magnificent portrait of vulnerability and desperation in the central role. Recounting her memories and feelings to her comotose husband, she tells her story in an extended monologue that serves as a quiet backlash to their unsatisfactory time together.  The couple met when she was only 17.

129_image_4 copy

The ambient sound is of war: the only visits from men.  A Mullah who comes to pray for her husband, aggressive incursions from soldiers, one of whom rapes her then pays her to have sex (providing valuable income for the household).  It’s a drama very similar in form to that of Jafar Panahi’s recent CLOSED CURTAIN.  As ‘the woman’ talks she remains focused on the medical needs of her husband, and he represents a  “Patience Stone” (from Persian folklore), an absorbing ‘oracle’ that is reputed to shatter when it can take no more of the unburdening.

The woman is strengthened by this therapeutic, low-key, rant about his lack of lovemaking skills and her fear of doing the right thing.  She expresses and shares her new experiences of sexual awakening with her soldier pupil, who she’s ashamed of enjoying.   Her worldly and more sophisticated aunt (Hassina Burghan) also provides comfort although we only meet her once. More of Hassina Burghan’s input would had added texture and cinematic contrast to the narrative. She is evidence that more urbane women do exist in this closed society.

With its muted visuals and themes that focus on womens’ issues in a society of religious and social repression and bigotry, this is a brave and controversial drama.  Golshifteh Farahani now lives in Paris and is one of the most important and well known actresses working in Iranian cinema.  Her delicately sensual role in THE PATIENCE STONE shows how this repressed comes full circle from the submissive teenage virgin to a finale of sexual realisation where she gains control of her life, all within her husband’s earshot.

Golshifteh has previously given strong performances in Chicken With PlumsAsghar Farhadi‘s About Elly and Ridley Scott‘s 2008 Body of Lies. 

THE PATIENCE STONE IS OUT ON DVD AND VOD FROM 3 MARCH 2014 COURTESY OF AXIOM FILMS

[youtube id=”ZAhtT7zfF6U” width=”600″ height=”350″]

 

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia