06 April 2009

Tribeca preview: About Elly

About Elly (Asghar Farhadi, Iran): 62
[Easy to see why the Berlin jury gave Farhadi their Best Damn Filmatist prize—not only does he have superlative camera sense, but he's working in a complex, highly choreographed Altmanesque mode that resembles nothing else coming out of Iran (for Western import, anyway). Lengthy setup is utterly superb, juggling multiple characters with whirligig economy and offering one compelling stray detail after another; for about 40 minutes the film is nearly plotless, engagingly hectic and easily the best window onto the Iranian middle class I've ever seen (Leila included). Then an Event occurs, at which point About Elly abruptly metamorphoses into a completely different and considerably odder entity, both formally and sociologically. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but there's almost a bait-and-switch aspect here for an American audience, who'll likely spend the first half of the film thinking "Say, these folks are just like us underneath the chador!" and then the second half realizing "Ohhhh, no they're not." What troubles me about this otherwise fascinating gearshift is the creeping sense of moralism that accompanies it. By shifting perspective to a newly introduced character in the home stretch, and otherwise eschewing any real sense of narrative closure, Farhadi seems to be passing draconianly harsh judgment on his entire ensemble—the lasting impression for me was essentially How Dare They, and while errors in judgment were certainly made I must say that I perceived no mortal sins. But then, you know, I don't live there.]

About Elly screenings (all at the AMC Village 7, Third Ave. at 11th St.):

Sun 26 Apr @ 7:15pm
Mon 27 Apr @ 11pm
Wed 29 Apr @ 1:15pm
Sat 2 May @ 3:15pm

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