×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Portrait of a Lady Far Away

Actor-turned-helmer Ali Mosaffa’s dreamlike feature debut “Portrait of a Lady Far Away” reps a refreshing departure from the usual super-stripped-down naturalism and rural settings of most fest product from Iran, even if talents on- and offscreen have close connections to some of the country’s best-known names. Story follows a melancholy professional (Homayoun Ershadi, “A Taste of Cherry”) when a seemingly random phone call from a potential suicide instigates a nighttime adventure around cosmopolitan Teheran, stirring up buried memories of lost love. “Portrait”’s sparse emotional brushwork may limit its general aud appeal, but exhibition at further fests is a dead cert.

With:
With: Leila Hatami, Homayoun Ershadi, Zahra Hatami, Zhila Sohrabi.

Actor-turned-helmer Ali Mosaffa’s dreamlike feature debut “Portrait of a Lady Far Away” reps a refreshing departure from the usual super-stripped-down naturalism and rural settings of most fest product from Iran, even if talents on- and offscreen have close connections to some of the country’s best-known names. Story follows a melancholy professional (Homayoun Ershadi, “A Taste of Cherry”) when a seemingly random phone call from a potential suicide instigates a nighttime adventure around cosmopolitan Teheran, stirring up buried memories of lost love. “Portrait”’s sparse emotional brushwork may limit its general aud appeal, but exhibition at further fests is a dead cert.

In his darkly lit apartment, lonely middle-aged architect Ahmed (Ershadi) takes a webcam call from his teenage son Ali (actor’s name untranslated in credits), and a voicemail from his cantankerous father. Another message from an unknown woman explains that she’s going to end it all that night and that she called his number at random to say goodbye cruel world, but that she’s leaving the keys to her apartment under the mat. Auds familiar with Abbas Kiarostami’s “A Taste of Cherry” will immediately spot irony of helmer Mosaffa having cast Ershadi, who played a man bent on suicide in latter pic.

Later that night, Ahmed makes his way to the would-be suicide’s apartment, and lets himself in with the aforementioned keys. Although he finds no corpse, an unnamed young woman (Leila Hatami, from “Deserted Station”), seemingly a friend of the suicide who also received a midnight call, shows up at the door.

The two decide to go look for the missing woman, a journey that encompasses hospitals, encounters with fortune tellers, Ahmed’s childhood home (now a building site), and an art show at a makeshift gallery where a blown up portrait of the woman Ahmed’s traveling with hangs side-by-side with a makeshift screen on which is projected an old film of an Afghani woman singer. Both portrait and screen are torched as part of the installation.

Eventually, it transpires that the Afghani singer seen at the gallery, Kharshid, was an old flame of Ahmed’s who once attempted committed suicide herself, and who is seen as a much older woman (played by Zahra Hatami) in a video remembering her youthful stardom. There’s a suggestion that the young female companion, who turns out to be the girl who made the call, could also be that lost lover’s spirit, or maybe a total figment of Ahmed’s imagination. One way or another, levels of reality are none-too-distinct here.

Influence of Kiarostami is unmistakeable, from the use of cars as setting, to the self-reflexive focus on film, to the very fact that the penumbral lensing comes courtesy of sometime Kiarostami DP Homayoun Payvar (“Life, and Nothing More…”, “A Taste of Cherry”). However, the young director’s oneric, heightened style is more reminiscent nearer Eastern auteurs, such as Andrei Tarkovsky (especially “Mirror” and “Nostalgia”), and to a certain extent Theo Angelopoulus (“Eternity and a Day”), even though the political and historical allusion that threads through their work is lower in the mix here.

Thesping by stately Ershadi and eerily beautiful Hatami holds pic’s center of gravity throughout, and impresses all the more given how much their characters had the potential to play as ciphers.

Layered use of sound by Fadin Saheb-Zamani complements atmospheric score by Peyman Yazdanian to create a complex soundscape that compliments pic’s lush visuals.

Portrait of a Lady Far Away

Iran

Production: A Tooba Film production. (International sales: Iranian Independents, Teheran.) Produced by Saghi Bagherinia, Ruhollah Baradari. Directed by Ali Mosaffa. Screenplay, Mosaffa, Safi Yazdanian.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Homayoun Payvar; editor, Haydeh Safi-Yari; music, Peyman Yazdanian; production designer, Mohsen Shah-Ebrahimi; sound (Dolby Digital), Fadin Saheb-Zamani. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 4, 2005. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Leila Hatami, Homayoun Ershadi, Zahra Hatami, Zhila Sohrabi.

More Film

  • 'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at

    'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at Topic Studios

    Topic Studios (“Leave No Trace”) has bought rights to Rachel Lyon’s debut novel “Self-Portrait With Boy” and plans to develop the project as a feature film. Lyon will adapt her own novel. John Lyons (“Boogie Nights”), who recently signed a first-look deal with Topic Studios, has come on board to produce. More Reviews Film Review: [...]

  • Ventana Sur Animation Panel Focuses On

    Ricardo Cortes Vera Talks Audience-Driven Content at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Ricardo Cortes Vera, commissioning editor for Señal Colombia, introduced the audience-driven children’s content his company is renowned for in hopes of encouraging a crowd of animators into submitting their own work to the channel. He did so in a keynote address given Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires, at the Animation! strand [...]

  • Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin

    Berlin Film Festival: New Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin, Denis Cote in Competition

    New films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin and Denis Cote are among the titles that will compete for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. German director Akin’s “Der Goldene Handschuh” (“The Golden Glove”) and French helmer Ozon’s “Grâce à dieu” (“By the Grace of God”) were announced by the Berlinale in its [...]

  • Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Film

    Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Title 'The Ground Beneath My Feet'

    Picture Tree Intl. is on board as the sales agent for “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Der Boden Unter Den Füssen), which the Berlin Film Festival revealed Thursday will be in its main competition section. The Austrian drama, directed by Marie Kreutzer, stars Valerie Pachner, Mavie Hörbiger and Pia Hierzegger. The film centers on high-powered [...]

  • Katherine Jerkovic on FiGa Films-Sold Debut

    Ventana Sur: Katherine Jerkovic On Personal References, Icebergs, and Whispered Truths

    Canada-born with roots in Uruguay, Croatia and Argentina, Katherine Jerkovic split her childhood between Belgium and Uruguay. At 18, she settled in Montreal and studied film at Concordia University. After a few shorts (“The Winter’s Keeper”) and some video-installations, she has finished her first feature, “Roads in February.” The film is a co-production between Nicolas [...]

  • 1844 Ent, Distrib Films To Release

    1844 Ent. Acquires North America on Alejandro Fadel’s ‘Murder Me, Monster’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — 1844 Entertainment, an emerging player on the U.S. distribution scene, has acquired North American rights to Argentine writer-director Alejandro Fadel’s “Muere monstruo muere” (“Murder Me, Monster”), sold by The Match Factory.      The deal was negotiated by 1844 Entertainment’s Tommaso Cerqueglini, The Match Factory’s Michael Weber and Thania Dimitrakopoulou.   As [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content