Magazine article Screen International


Magazine article Screen International


Article excerpt

Dir: Rakhshan Banietemad. Iran. 2014. 90mins

From the same production company that made last year's festival favourite Fish & Cat, multilinear arthouse melodrama Tales (Ghesseha) sees experienced Iranian director Rakhshan Banietemad mining characters from her previous films to create a mosaic of downtrodden lives in contemporary Teheran.

Wearing its handheld, on-the-hoof shooting style prominently on its sleeve, this is an indie curio that will appeal to anyone interested in a less internationalised form of Iranian cinema than we're used to seeing in the West.

Some of the segments work well, and it's refreshing to see themes such as domestic abuse, drug addiction and workers' rights being aired so openly and honestly in an Iranian film. But although characters from different narrative strands meet and overlap, and though you don't need to be familiar with the director's oeuvre to appreciate it, Tales remains more of a loose short story collection than a filmic novel. Even within this genre, its vignettes lack the tight thematic cross-struts of, say, Short Cuts, or the pressure of place created by the confined location of a multi-story film like Abbas Kiarostami's Ten.

If the director is less well known than colleagues such as Kiarostami, Panahi or Farhadi, that's partly because she's always insisted on making films in Iran for Iranian audiences - with all the problems this entails. Coming out eight years after her previous feature, Tales was made as a series of short films in order to get around filming permit regulations, which until recently were ultra-strict for full-length features but more permissive for shorts. Though it has now been granted a screening licence of sorts, it seems likely that Tales will garner more spectators on its international festival tour than it does back home.

One of the best moments in the film comes at the end of the first segment - a sort of meta-cinematic bookend centering on a documentary director who is trying to get permission to shoot a film about the everyday problems of ordinary Iranians. We fully expect to follow the filmmaker when he gets out of the cab he's been shooting handheld video footage from, but instead it's the taxi driver, Abbas, that we stay with. We don't need the prompt of the name to read this as a gentle snub to Kiarostami's intellectual trickery, a sign that the director is throwing in her lot fully with the common people, without self-conscious reserve. …

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