Review: ‘Hafez’

Poetic images and divine love are sometimes confusingly refracted in Iranian-Japanese co-production "Hafez." Other than investment coin and the casting of Kumiko Aso ("Pulse," "Casshern") as a Tibetan bride, essentially Iranian pic bears no Japanese traces.

Poetic images and divine love are sometimes confusingly refracted in Iranian-Japanese co-production “Hafez.” Other than investment coin and the casting of Kumiko Aso (“Pulse,” “Casshern”) as a Tibetan bride, essentially Iranian pic bears no Japanese traces. More intense than one-man band Abolfazl Jalili’s whimsical “Full or Empty” (2005), this Rome special jury prize-winner nevertheless shows flashes of dry wit amid the drama, and will be appreciated on the fest circuit.

Handsome Koran scholar Shams al-Din (Mehdi Moradi), known as Hafez (after the Persian poet), is asked to teach the holy book’s philosophy to the newly arrived Nabat (Aso), who’s engaged to the local mufti’s son. Caught taking an illicit peek at his beautiful pupil, protag is punished by flogging, banishment and hard labor, but maintains his love is pure. Visual imagery leans heavily on a Koran quote regarding sacred and profane reflections, with a mirror almost always onscreen somewhere, but Jalili’s lensing is sharp; awkward editing rhythms, however, suggest he should have passed on cutting duties. As the Tibetan maiden, Aso is a stretch, but Moradi makes a compelling, handsome lead. Tech package is good for a tight budget.

Hafez

Iran - Japan

Production

A First Film Milad Co. (Iran)/Bitters End (Japan) production, in association with Happinet. (International sales: Bitters End, Tokyo.) Produced by Abolfazl Jalili, Yuji Sadai. Directed, written, edited by Abolfazl Jalili.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Jalili; music, Jalili, Yungchen Lhamo. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (competing), Oct. 20, 2007. (Also in Rome Film Festival -- competing.) Iranian dialogue. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Mehdi Moradi, Kumiko Aso, Mehdi Negahban, Hamide Hedayati, Abdollah Shamasi.
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