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Thread: HIT THE ROAD (Panah Panahi 2021)

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    HIT THE ROAD (Panah Panahi 2021)

    PANAH PANAHI: HIT THE ROAD (2021)


    RAYAN SARLAK IN HIT THE ROAD

    TRAILER
    TEASER

    Jafar's son's debut is a miraculous road trip of indefinably complex mood

    The Kid (Rayan Sarlak), a mop-headed, round-faced boy of six, is the one actor of the four who makes this road movie most unique and memorable; it's hard to imagine it without him. Tirelessly squealing, yelling, lip-synching, belly-dancing, squirming, protesting, bowing down to kiss the ground to give thanks, this special Middle Eastern version of a hyperactive boy is both a continual annoyance and a continual delight. In his innocence and exuberance he is ballast against a hovering sadness and unease that otherwise might overwhelm and tells us that mood is not the final one, that there is a spirit here that cannot be defeated.

    This is the debut feature of Panah Panahi, the son of the famous Iranian director Jafar Panahi, known for The Circle, Offside, Taxi, and other acclaimed films, and he is good too, beyond good, and no clone of his father. There is a nod to the late master of both father and son, the great Abbas Kiarostami, who liked shooting films inside cars. Over all hangs the shadow of Iran's repressive, ultra-religious regime.

    And the special mood of Hit the Road, which is hard to define, reflects that shadow. This is a family of four. In the back with the Kid is Khosro (Hasan Majuni), the father, a big, bearded, slightly blowsy man with one leg in a cast, and crutches, who affectionately abuses the two sons, calling them Monkey No. 1 and Monkey No. 2, or Shithead. The elder brother, Farid (Amin Simiar), is twenty, and the driver. Next to him is the wife and mother (Pantea Panahiha), an elegant, beautiful gray-haired woman who seems too glamorous and too sad to be a mother, but who is often laughing and joyously lip-synching to hide her tears.

    Why the tears? Well, that is what we gradually find out, and it reflects back on that shadow I mentioned. There is also Jessy, the little dog, who is sick and dying, though that doesn't stop him from dragging a plastic chair a long way down a country road when he is tied to it. The Kid must not know Jessy is dying and must not know where his older brother is going.

    Another character is the landscape of northwestern Iran, hilly and lunar sometimes, flat-out vast and beautiful at others. The title of the film in the original Farsi means "Dirt Road," and eventually they are on dirt roads, going toward a designated meeting with mysterious hooded figures on scooters who will ask if one of them is "a Traveler." Then a series of arcane arrangements will be made, and after a period in limbo, there will be a sad goodbye.

    Hit the Road's special mood is set by the sadness of this essential goodbye and the effort to divert or downplay it, and in this mood an essential role is played by the music that comes in over the radio or on tapes in this car that is borrowed because mom has sold hers as they have sold their house (what will they do now? that is one of the mysteries of the film). First there is the fragment of the adagio from a Bach keyboard concerto the Kid plays along with on one hand on a small keyboard drawn with a marking pen on his father's cast. (This Kid is as brilliant as he is, in his dad's word, "wacko.") Then there is the sad strain of a Schubert piano sonata, parts of which briefly come and go throughout. But also, pulling in another important direction, there are touching, rousing, melodramatic old Iranian pop songs mom loves to lip sync to (but the Kid is the best lip-syncher of all). Farid balks at the melodrama. It's he who's barely holding it together.

    In Screen Daily Wendy Ide described this film as "riotously funny at times and quietly devastating at others," and this is true. But there's really a whole spectrum of moods from one of these extremes to the other continually hovering, defined by the very clear and always overlapping personalities of the four in the car, with the Kid setting a top note of crazy, erratic, bratty joy.

    Hit the Road is composed of many small, utterly original details one could never adequately pin down in a short review. Some viewers, not yielding to the mood, will see too little happening here. But you want to say, See it: if you like it at all, you'll probably love it.

    When the penultimate phase comes of the arrangement and the departure of one of them, what has been so in-your-face and intimate draws away for a time and becomes spots on the horizon, and this is where, if you don't have the advantage of it, you'd most wish to be in front of the big screen. This is a film to savor and an instant classic, with this huge, small film, setting son Panah up with father Jafar Panahi quite likely to take his place among Iran's great directors.

    Hit the Road (Jaddeh khaki/جادة خاكي /"Dirt Road"), 93 mins., debuted at Cannes Directors' Fortnight Jul. 10, 2021, showing at thirty other international festivals. Best Film at London, Mar del Plata, Singapore, numerous nominations. US theatrical release Apr. 22, 2022, in New York (Film Forum); in Los Angeles, Apr. 29. Metacritic rating: 91% (12 reviews).


    RAYAN SARLAK IN HIT THE ROAD


    RAYAN SARLAK AND PANTEA PANIHIHA IN HIT THE ROAD


    HASAN MAJUNI, AMIN SIMIAR IN HIT THE ROAD

    [/B]
    PANTEA PANAHIHA AND AMIN SIMIAR IN HIT THE ROAD

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-21-2022 at 07:07 PM.

  2. #2
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    Lead review in the NY Times today - and a Critic's Pick - by A.O. Scott is subtle and discerning. When you love a movie, it's always nice to see somebody very well placed to hear their opinion heard also loves it. You could say this is going to be one of the year's best films - but it already is.

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    Jessic Kiang of Variety has such a nice opening it's tempting to quote it.

    With a touch on the pedal so light you don’t even feel the woosh, Panah Panahi, son of Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, goes instantaneously from zero to 60 with his debut feature, “Hit the Road.” Doubly surprising, he does it repeatedly within the film too, from scene to scene — and within scenes, from moment to moment — accelerating and decelerating so abruptly, switching moods like gears, like radio stations, that by the end we should be rattling around inside, carsick, dying to get out. Instead, its 93 minutes whip by so airily, it’s possible not to realize how much you’ve learned to love the family whose road trip you’ve shared in, until the credits roll and you immediately start to miss them.
    It's true! I very quickly had to watch the film again, to get back with them.

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    April 30, 2022.. The San Francisco Film Festival has announced its Golden Gate awards, including:
    GGA Critics-New Directors Award winner:
    Hit the Road, Panah Panahi (Iran)

    Good choice!

    The New Directors jurors were Vulture and New York Magazine film critic Alison Willmore, senior editor and critic for Rolling Stone David Fear, former A.V. Club film editor and now founder of The Reveal Substack Scott Tobias, member of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle Zaki Hasan and freelance film critic Jourdain Searles.

  5. #5
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    July 29, 2022: The Guardian has just published an appreciative review by chief film critic Peter Bradshaw of HIT THE ROAD, recently released in the UK.

    Peter Bradshaw's review

    Linked to a July 21 Guardian interview with Panah Panihi by Phil Hoad.


    PANAH PANAHI [GUARDIAN PHOTO]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-29-2022 at 11:19 AM.

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