Tag Archives: Asghar Farhadi

Holding Out

A Hero

by George Wolf

If you’re familiar with Asghar Farhadi films such as The Past, A Separation and The Salesman, you already know what to expect from his latest. The Iranian writer/director’s calling card has become the intimate drama of complex moralities and lasting impact, wonderfully layered stories that probe the societal strife of his homeland while ultimately revealing universal insight.

Farhadi does not disappoint with A Hero (Ghahreman), a film that finds him questioning the increasingly blurred lines of truth and perception.

When we first meet Rahim (Amir Jadidi), he is coming home on a two-day leave from prison. Locked up for failing to repay a debt, Rahim is hoping to use his brief amnesty to talk his creditor into withdrawing the complaint in exchange for partial payment.

It doesn’t look promising, until Rahim finds a lost handbag full of gold coins – and returns it instead of selling the coins to pay his debt.

Suddenly, Rahim is a hero. But today’s hero is tomorrow’s milkshake duck, and it isn’t long before distrust of Rahim’s story begins to threaten the promise of freedom and a new job.

Is resisting temptation even worthy of such celebration, and how far will Rahim go to retain his perceived nobility? Is it possible to recognize the moment when the best of intentions can no longer justify a possible deception? Is “the truth” even a realistic goal in the social media age of constantly manipulated realities?

Jadidi crafts Amir with a deeply sympathetic balance of earnestness and suspicion, and the terrific ensemble cast helps cement a sharp morality play that often crackles with the tension of a thriller. Farhadi seems more than comfortable moving further from his stage roots than ever, illuminating Amir’s journey with a realism that patiently waits until the final shot to get showy.

Farhadi makes sure that separating the good guys from the bad guys won’t be easy. The moral high ground of A Hero is constantly shifting, which proves to be the perfect anchor for a gifted filmmaker’s latest examination of modern life’s often messy ambiguities.

Attention Must Be Paid

The Salesman (Forushande)

by George Wolf

It should surprise no one familiar with Asghar Farhadi that the filmmaker is a former playwright. In films such as About Ely, The Past and the Oscar-winning A Separation, Farhadi, as both writer and director, has shown sharp instincts for building quiet tension through insightful, deliberately paced dialog.

His latest, The Salesman, is no exception, as Farhadi returns to his stage roots in crafting a meaningful parallel between a classic American play and an Iranian couple whose marriage is frayed by a traumatic incident.

Emad (Shahab Hosseini), a high school teacher, and his wife Rana (Taraneh Etesami) are starring in a community theatre production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman when they are forced to flee their apartment building as it crumbles around them. After renting a new apartment from one of their co-stars in the play, a dangerous occurrence involving the previous tenant drives a wedge of guilt and anger between husband and wife.

While The Salesman may lean on contrivance a whisper more than usual, Farhadi again uses intimate conflicts to explore more universal themes of gender and class, and he again delivers a screenplay with minimal filler. Buoyed by resonant performances from the two leads, each line of dialog is carefully placed for maximum impact, while Farhadi weaves Miller’s work into the narrative for a poignant undercurrent of generational clash in a changing world.

Though the classic “attention must be paid” speech occurs relatively early in Death of a Salesman, Farhadi confidently builds his film toward a third act reflecting similar themes. All of us, no matter what may have occurred in the past, deserve basic human dignity.

Sadly ironic, then, that if The Salesman earns Farhadi his second Academy Award, he won’t be there to accept it. The Iranian filmmaker has said he won’t attend even if “exceptions were made” to recent immigration directives, and his work must stand as a testament to the increasingly shaky ground of our own foundations.




Formidable Filmmaker Explores The Past

The Past

by Hope Madden

Original films – not reboots, franchises, or adaptations – are a relative anomaly in today’s movie landscape. Truly original works that take you into authentic human experiences are an even greater rarity. This sad fact puts writer/director Asghar Farhadi in the category of the unique alongside Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. Like each of these geniuses, Farhadi has a particular style. You can see this style in his latest, the French language drama The Past.

At its own pace, the film unveils the complicated relationships a splintered family has with each other and with its past. Iranian Ahmad (a wonderful Ali Mosaffa) returns to France to attend the divorce hearing his French wife Marie (Berenice Bejo) has asked for. He wonders why he had to come in person, and why Marie didn’t book him into a hotel as he asked.

The low key Mosaffa anchors the film of a family spinning out of control, and his unflappable demeanor makes a lovely counterpoint to Bejo’s chaotic bursts of passion. Because of Ahmad’s grounded presence, we can slowly unravel all that brought the family to this point.

Bejo (The Artist) offers an unflinching performance. She’s never worried about being likeable, and indeed, Marie is not. She’s an amazingly textured, complicated mess of neediness, love,  guilt and denial.

As the title suggests, the past itself is also an ever present character. It doesn’t go away, it remains. Like Ahmad, no matter how much distance Marie puts between herself and her past, it is still right there, coloring today as well as tomorrow.

Farhadi writes beautifully, and he draws very natural and dimensional performances from his entire ensemble, even the youngest members of the cast. As the story spills out in every direction, the messes remain true to the characters and their lives. Chaos isn’t created for the sake of chaos, it’s simply examined as a natural side effect of the happenstance of this family.

The Past has Farhadi’s thumbprints all over it, showing countless little similarities in theme, style and tone to his previous efforts, but it pales in comparison to his Oscar winning A Separation. Adults take self righteous stands, young people want to learn from them but have to point out the hypocrisy of their actions, and tragedy hangs in the balance. He understands the sometimes powerfully difficult messes people get themselves into, and the sleight of hand adults use to excuse themselves and blame others.

It just doesn’t work quite as well here. In The Past, the lessons feel a little more like finger wagging. It’s a minor fault, though, in a beautifully acted, well written, expertly crafted and often surprising family drama.