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This is Not a Film – review

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:05 am    Post subject: This is Not a Film – review Reply with quote

div class="track"img alt="" src="http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.22.4/85052?ns=guardianpageName=This+is+Not+a+Film+*+review%3AArticle%3A1721010ch=Filmc3=Obsc4=Jafar+Panahi%2CWorld+cinema+%28Film+genre%29%2CDocumentary+%28Film+genre%29%2CIran+%28News%29%2CFilm%2CCulturec5=Not+commercially+usefulc6=Philip+Frenchc7=12-Mar-25c8=1721010c9=Articlec10=Reviewc11=Filmc13=c25=c30=contentc42=Cultureh2=GU%2FCulture%2FFilm%2FJafar+Panahi" width="1" height="1" //divp class="standfirst"Smuggled out of Iran inside a cake, Jafar Panahi's latest film is a remarkable addition to the literature of oppression/ppThere is unlikely to be a wittier, braver, more serious film shown in Britain this year than the 51-year-old Iranian director Jafar Panahi's emThis is Not a Film/em. Made while under house arrest in Tehran using an iPhone and a digital video camera, it's an act of defiance in the face of the arbitrary, vindictive, capricious, utterly humourless regime of the ayatollahs and President Ahmadinejad. The film was smuggled out of Iran in a cake and it proved to be one of the most widely discussed entries at the 2011 Cannes festival, where it was a last-minute submission./ppFollowing the fall of the Shah in 1979, Iran's film industry virtually collapsed for a variety of religious, economic and political reasons, but from the late 1980s it began to make a remarkable recovery, finding local popularity and international renown. From the mid-90s Panahi became one of its most prominent figures with his personal form of neorealism. But his films' critical attitude towards society and his comments on public life annoyed the authorities. Finally, after several serious brushes with the law, he was sentenced in December 2010 to six years in jail and a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/20/iran-jails-jafar-panahi-films" title=""banned from making or directing movies/a, writing screenplays, giving interviews to the media or leaving the country for 20 years. He has been appealing against this sentence ever since, and emThis is Not a Film /emwas shot in his Tehran apartment as a mocking attempt to adhere to those draconian conditions./ppThe movie's title refers to René Magritte's deceptively simple 1928-29 surrealist masterwork, emThe Treachery of Images/em, in which a picture of a pipe is accompanied by the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe"). Magritte meant that this was just an image of a pipe, not an actual pipe. In a playful, straight-faced manner, Panahi is similarly instructingnbsp;us, along with the judges, the police and the mullahs, about art and life. In doing so he is sticking to the conditions imposed upon him. This is not a film he has "made", it is a film that merely features him, that records a day in his life. Robert Rauschenberg remarked of his work, and most especially the "combines" he constructed from paint and found objects back in the 1960s, that he worked "in the gap between life and art". This is the contested space that Panahi's pictures come from, and is now the legal no man's land or social vacuum he currently inhabits./ppThe movie begins with Panahi breakfasting alone in his austere, exquisitely furnished flat high up in an apartment block, a giant crane with an unseen operator hovering outside. It ends after nightfall as a kind of festival, the Persian new year, I think, is going on: the fireworks sound like gunshots, and bonfires in the street hint at something more seriously inflammatory. A telephone message records that Panahi's son has left a camera running in the living room. Another tells us that his family is visiting relatives and that he must care for Igi, his daughter's four-foot iguana that crawls freely around the apartment, an unconcerned visitor from an earlier stage of history./ppPanahi talks to his lawyer on the phone aboutnbsp;the state of his appeal, and she tells him that with a purely political case like this, a sentence may be modified but a verdict can never be overturned. It transpires that the camera is being operated by a fellow moviemaker, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, a director of art documentaries and assistant on such distinguished pictures as emBlackboards/em and emKandahar/em. Mirtahmasb has also done a stretch in jail for supposed subversion but he is not of course "making" the film because he's not really a cinematographer./ppPanahi talks to Mirtahmasb, at one point he films him with his iPhone, and their central topic is film itself. Panahi mentions several of his own pictures, conjuring up clips on a flat-screen TV. In emThe Mirror/em (1997) a child actor rebels against the director and removes a cast she's wearing on her arm. emThe Circle /em(2000) centres on oppressed women released from jail into a Kafkaesque city. His emCrimson Gold/em (2003) tells the story of a troubled war veteran working as a pizza delivery man who is driven into a suicidal crime. Talk of this last film is triggered by the arrival of takeaway food and gets Panahi talking about the way amateur actors start directing themselves and take over the film. The main movie they discuss, however, is one the censors rejected and thus Panahi never made. It's about the life of a teenage girl confined to her home in Isfahan by an overbearing parent. She's a prisoner as Panahi is now, and he creates her flat with pieces of tape on the living-room carpet the way Lars von Trier outlines his minimal sets in emDogville/em. Panahi is, he explains, "telling" his film, not "making" it./ppThere are only two other visitors. One is a shy young university student with a part-time job collecting refuse in the apartment block, and in an amusing scene Panahi accompanies him down in the lift. The other is an unseen neighbour who asks him to care for her little dog, which yaps angrily at thenbsp;iguana and has to be ejected. This lively moment inevitablynbsp;brings to mind the old Middle Eastern saying, "The dog barks but the caravan passes" – the fateful recognition that whatever happens, however significant or trivial, life goes on its waynbsp;regardless. This is a moving,nbsp;altogether original film that weaves together a series of metaphors and draws us into the life of a courageous man. It's a subtle contribution to the literature of oppression, opposition and prison and to the never-ending discussion of art and its relationship to life./pdiv class="related" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"ullia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/jafar-panahi"Jafar Panahi/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/world-cinema"World cinema/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/documentary"Documentary/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran"Iran/a/li/ul/divdiv class="author"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/philipfrench"Philip French/a/divbr/div class="terms"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk"guardian.co.uk/a copy; 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our a href="http://users.guardian.co.uk/help/article/0,,933909,00.html"Terms Conditions/a | a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/feeds"More Feeds/a/divp style="clear:both" /

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