An unlikely co-producing partnership between Iran and Japan has borne sweet fruit in the form of “Farda.” Gently charming seriocomedy about a Tokyo working man’s reluctant but transforming trip to the Middle East offers perhaps an idealized, tourist’s-eye view of Iranian life — but then that’s one p.o.v. we’ve seldom seen –and the simplified outside perspective has definite allure. Smooth, ingratiating pic from longtime Nikkatsu Studios helmer Setsuo Nakayama has a good shot at specialized distrib in numerous territories.
Though he once dreamt of being an artist, Izava (Kai Shishido) has long since settled for the more conventional path of corporate employ, shilling for a major auto manufacturer. His boss’s expectations of around-the-clock availability leave no time for relaxation, let alone romantic involvement. Izava acts as a liaison between the central offices and independent machine shops contracted to supply individual parts. He’s grown especially appreciative of Mr. Murata, a small-scale owner who treats business associates with courtesy and generosity. Izava is drawn in particular to Murata’s daughter, a beauteous deaf-mute. But of course, he has no leisure time in which to make his feelings known.
When ruthless cost-cutting falls hard on the corporation’s contractees, Izava must deliver the bad news to Murata and family. Later, Izava feels responsible when the old man dies of heart failure after his private assembly plant has gone belly up.
But Murata hasn’t died without a last wish. With his business going down the tubes, he’d been forced to short the pay of Mehdi, his one illegal, nonresident worker. His wish is to have the man fully compensated at last. Murata’s family asks Izava to fly to Iran and track down Mehdi, who’d returned home there some months before. It’s a request protag has neither time nor inclination to fulfill, but a sense of duty overrides all other factors.
Landing in Tehran, he (somewhat improbably) falls straight away into the helpful hands of Reza (Mehdi Ghoudarzi), who’s spent the last years as a guest worker in Japan. Reza and his young son Iman, both bilingual, happily offer to take Izava all the way to the Esfahan province, where Izava believes Mehdi has settled. When it turns out Mehdi has since moved on, Izava is packed off with elderly truck driver Osman (Osman Mohammadparast) to journey yet farther. The duo get along rather well — despite fact that neither understands a word the other is saying.
Familiar gist of this anecdotal, casually slung road pic is that the uptight hypercapitalist urbanite loosens up as he learns about a social/religious culture whose exotic values — contemplative rather than consumerist, generous rather than formally polite — lead him to question whether he’s been chasing the wrong rabbits all along. Even finally finding Mehdi an event handled in ambiguous fashion by Nakayama) becomes less a goal than another signpost on the self-searching path.
Deliberately low-key direction, Yoshi Yokota’s uncomplicated script and the appealing perfs make “Farda” the kind of pleasure that sneaks up on you rather than one that sets off fireworks. Even the funniest sequences are offhand, as when Izava finds himself entertaining a classroom of rural Iranian students with a Japanese school song.
Abbas Kiarosami is credited as artistic consultant for the Iranian sequences. Perhaps filmmakers should have gotten some outside input on the Nippon segs, too; by far pic’s weakest element.
For the most part, score consists of attractive Iranian folk instrumentation. While dusty backroads traveled here aren’t necessarily among Iran’s prettier landscapes — “The Color of Paradise,” this ain’t — Tadashi Furuyama’s lensing is flavorful. Tech package in general is expertly handled.