Review: ‘Tehran Tehran’

Pic duo is more interesting as antithetical mood pieces than as cinema.

Comprised of two opposing views of the Islamic Republic’s capital city, “Tehran Tehran” was commissioned by the local municipality, and originally slated to have three episodes from three generations of filmmakers. Middle-generation figure Seifollah Dad died before his segment was completed, leaving “The Days of Acquaintance,” from Iranian New Wave icon Dariush Mehrjui, and “The Last String,” from Mehrjui’s onetime assistant, Mehdi Karampour. Pics are more interesting as antithetical mood pieces than as cinema, and the result is best suited for a limited domestic aud (censorship permitting), or offshore an even more limited group of expats and Iranophiles.

Repping the positive side of humanity and Persian culture, contempo fairy tale “The Days of Acquaintance” centers on a working-class family (father, mother and two young kids) whose roof collapses during the New Year’s holiday. Trusting that “God will look after us,” they wind up sharing a Tehran tour bus with a group of well-heeled but eccentric oldsters (played by famous film and theater thesps).

As the group trundles through ancient sites, including the glittering Shamsol Emareh in the Golestan Palace and modern edifices such as the Milad Tower, friendships are formed and fabled Iranian hospitality is at its finest.

In contrast, the desperation-tinged “The Last String” plays like a riff on Bahman Ghobadi’s “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” and may be a more accurate reflection of Tehran at the moment than “Acquaintance.”

A coed rock band finds its long-awaited concert canceled at the last minute by a state security agent who delivers barely veiled threats to the performers. After some soap opera-like melodrama fueled by frustration over the myriad prohibitions governing life in Iran, especially for educated, urban young people, pic’s final moments play out in musicvideo style as the group performs on a hilltop, the lyrics more impressive than the sound.

Tehran Tehran

Iran

Production

(International sales: Farabi Cinema Foundation, Tehran.) Produced by Mohammad Ali Hossein Nezhad. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 2010. Running time: 101 MIN.

Crew

The Days of Acquaintance
Directed by Dariush Mehrjui. Screenplay, Vahide Mohammadafar. Camera (color), Ali Logmani; editor, Hassan Hassandoust; music, Behrooz Safarian; set designer/costume designer, Ali Abedini, Dariush Mehrjui; sound, Amir Hossein Qasemi. With: Reza Yazdani, Raana Azadivar, Borzou Arjomand, Tannaz Tabatabaie, Soroush Sehhat, Farhad Qaemian.
The Last String
Directed by Mehdi Karampour. Screenplay, Karampour, Khosro Naquibi. Camera (color), Mohammad Aladpoush; editor, Nazanin Mofakham; music, Karen Homayounfar; set designer/costume designer, Niloufar Sajadi; sound, Rahimeh Shojaie.
With: Katayoun Amir Ebrahimi, Pantea Bahram, Rahman Hosseini, Farideh Sopah Mansour, Minou Saberi, Ardashir Kazemi.

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