×
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

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. More Reviews Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink' Film [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content