Iranian youth is disaffected and lacks values according to “Deep Breath,” a spirited if bleak portrait of three college-age kids with nothing to lose. The third feature by young helmer Parviz Shahbazi gets up close to the characters, whose surprising modernity offers Western auds a rather new perspective on Iranian culture. Their hip hair, clothes, music and mores should be a recipe for success when pic comes out in Iran this fall, after a brief bout of censorship postponed release. Its Directors Fortnight bow at Cannes could open a window on curious international audiences.
Shahbazi (“Travelers From the South,” “Whisper”), a competent filmmaker with a pleasing modern style, carefully avoids moralizing over his anti-heroes. Rather than protesting about Iranian society per se, the hip trio members seem to be rebels without a cause who refuse traditional values just like kids everywhere.
With a wink at that great visual taboo, women’s hair, opener shows divers in a lake struggling to bring up a drowning victim with swirling long locks. Cut to Kamran (Saeed Amini) in a swimming pool with shoulder-length hair and the face of a young Tom Cruise.
An engineering student admired by his prof and with a wealthy, indulgent family behind him, he’s lost interest in school and life. He sleeps in stolen cars and dingy hostels with his penniless buddy Mansour (curly-haired, reckless Mansour Shahbazi). They are united by their cool outlook on life and a penchant for random acts of vandalism. Their anti-social behavior ranges from smoking on a bus and kicking in phone booths to pinching cell phones and stealing cars.
Kamran, the more original character, stops eating and lets himself slide into death and out of the film. Mansour, instead, falls for a brash girl he picks up hitchhiking. Aida (Maryam Palyzban), a college student, is a free spirit who chatters non-stop when she’s not plugged into her music walkman.
Shattering a few stereotypes about boy-girl relations in Iran, their flirtation proceeds to a final rendezvous with destiny.
Non-pro cast is film’s main asset. Saucy Palyzban is a stand-out in the live-wire female role, while Amini gives sleepy-eyed Kamran a most attractive sensual edge.
Mehrdad Palyzban is credited with the unusual soundtrack, which includes some little-heard Iranian rock.