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Thread: NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS (Bahman Ghobadi)

  1. #1
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    NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS (Bahman Ghobadi)

    NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS (Iran/Germany)

    Over the course of four award-winning feature films, Bahman Ghobadi (Turtles Can Fly) has dramatized the plight of the Iranian Kurd minority to which he belongs. His previous film, Half Moon (2006), concerns the struggle of an ailing, legendary musician who aspires to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan to give a final concert. Half Moon refers to the arduous process of obtaining a visa in Iran and decries the government’s prohibition against women performing in public. The Ahmadinejad administration banned the film from exhibition in Iran. Half Moon's magical-realist and comedic elements provide respite and imply a degree of hopefulness. On the other hand, No One Knows about Persian Cats is a cri de coeur from a filmmaker who had already decided to immigrate prior to the shoot, after concluding that it is untenable to be an artist in Iran under the current regime. The film was shot clandestinely in Tehran, the first time Ghobadi sets a film in the capital city and the first film by Ghobadi spoken entirely in Farsi.

    No One Knows About Persian Cats is structured as a fictional narrative about Negar and Ashkan, young marrieds who have been invited to play a gig in London and who intend to give a concert for the locals prior to their departure. However, the fact that the couple and practically everyone else are playing themselves and the on-the-fly shooting style render a film perched daringly on the tenuous border between fiction and documentary. Ghobadi follows the earnest, sympathetic couple as they attempt to recruit backing musicians and obtain the documents necessary to travel. No One Knows About Persian Cats incorporates a number of arresting musical performances in barns, condemned buildings, and dingy basements which evince the vibrancy and resilience of the underground music scene in Tehran. Ghobadi effectively provides a rare opportunity for these musicians to showcase their talent. As the film progresses, the repression of artistic expression and the abuse of human rights by the authorities is dramatized to wrenching emotional effect. No One Knows About Persian Cats is a testament of fearless, political defiance on the part of Ghobadi, who is unlikely to film in his native land for the foreseeable future.

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    I so much wanted this film to be great! I so badly wanted it to be great and unique that I think -- to some extent -- I even managed to overlook its multiple issues. It's not a decent piece of cinema. The editing is awkward and the acting is poor. The latter makes sense as there are no professional actors in Iran and -- as you mentioned -- the people we see are simply the musicians the movie is all about. And this also explains why the music videos prepared especially for this film are its most powerful moments.

    I wish it could have been better but perhaps it simply couldn't in the conditions it was shot and then edited.

    I wrote a longer piece about this one a while back: The Voice of the New Generation (NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS review)
    Borys 'michuk' Musielak

    Filmaster.com -- film buffs community, social movie recommendations

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    This is showing at the IFC Center in NYC now, but due to lack of time it is not a priority for me right now. I suspect that its being "a film perched daringly on the tenuous border between fiction and documentary" explains Oscar's enthusiasm; this is a kind of film he is especially interested in.

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    Indeed, Chris, your suspicion about what motivates my enthusiasm for PERSIAN CATS is right. I love the self-reflexive prologue in which Ghobadi is singing a song in a clandestine studio (because it relaxes him!) while the producer is discussing Ghobadi's plans for the film we are about to watch. The producer mentions, among other factual details, the banning of Ghobadi's HALF MOON by the government and the film's popularity as a bootleg DVD. There is also a magnificent scene, shot from outside a door left ajar, in which a character is being interrogated by a vice cop about his huge collection of American and European films on DVD.
    Additionally, my enthusiasm stems from the conviction and moral certainty espoused by Ghobadi and the real-life protagonists. I cannot think of another recent film that speaks more eloquently on behalf of freedom. The three main characters are very likable too, which doesn't hurt.
    With all due respect, I cannot take seriously Michuk's concerns about the acting. These characters are playing themselves! They show no self-consciousness about revealing themselves in front of the camera. By all appearances, the dialogue combines scripted and improvised lines. It is delivered in a natural, colloquial manner. The demands on these non-actors are modest. No one is asking anyone to deliver the soliloquy from Hamlet!

    Regarding the editing...It is often choppy (and the camera is hand-held). This is perfectly coherent and congruent with the circumstances of production and the impermanence in the lives of the young artists the film depicts. Smooth or "slick" editing techniques would be wrong for the film. The performance scenes use the quick montages typical of music videos quite effectively.

    Making this film is Ghobadi's most admirable and courageous political act. May he be able to return to his country soon and continue to make heartfelt, soulful movies like PERSIAN CATS.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-26-2010 at 05:15 PM.

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    I figured as much--that this is the kind of genre that particularly has come to interest you lately.

    I cannot comment directly on PERSIAN CATS because I have not gotten to see it though it was showing at the IFC Center (and not here back in Calif.). I was there twice, for DADDY LONGLEGS, and for a re-viewing at a press screening of the fine Mia Hansen-Love film THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN.

    In purely theoretical defense of Michuk, I'll just say that the fact that people are playing themselves is not a defense in itself; it is notoriously hard for non-actors to "play themselves" or "act natural", sometimes, even though, of course, when properly directed, who better to do so?

    I imagine you must be pleased with the Palme d'Or win at Cannes by "Joe" Weerasethakul's UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES.

    A choice that surprised some. It was Mike d'Angelo's comment on it that caught my attention. I like to read his Cannes commentaries for A.V. Club, and I noted he raves about this film, though I haven't gotten around to reading all his Cannes 2010 dispatches yet. They are all here: http://www.avclub.com/features/cannes-film-festival/

    I wonder what you would think of the Safdie brothers' DADDY LONGLEGS. I would say that the interplay between "documentary" and "fiction" is very interesting in that one, and the manner of composing the film through collaboration with the main actor an interesting one.

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    I love "Joe". I made a list of best filmmakers based on my assessment of films released between 2000 and 2009 and he was 4th.
    I am also happy that Hong Sans-soo won Un Certain Regard. Of course my support is based on their previous films.
    I never expected anyone to get an acting award for a performance in a Kiarostami film. That's a first!
    I passed on Daddy Longlegs at the MIFF because it had distribution. Sounds interesting, no doubt.

    I figured as much--that this is the kind of genre that particularly has come to interest you lately.
    Right now I am considering two kinds of films (genres, maybe) as subjects for dissertation/book due in 2013 (a long term, lengthy project indeed). One involves films that combine documentary and fiction aspects in myriad ways.
    Another involves films that defy the rules of erotetic (from the Greek erotesis meaning "a questioning") narrative. Films that fail to provide closure by refusing to reveal the answer to questions raised by the plot (what David Hume called "the secret"). I am especially curious about films that evade the central question for what is perceived as a higher purpose. Some examples include L'avventura, Last Year at Marienbad, Rashomon, and, more recently, The Headless Woman. Movies that frustrate the viewer's need to have a mystery resolved, something that any reasonable viewer would expect to know by the end of the movie. We'll never know what happened to Anna in L'avventura. How could she possibly disappear from a small, rocky island off the coast of Sicily, never to be seen again? What is it that Antonioni has to say that requires the mystery to remain a mystery? Can you think of other examples? Anyone?

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