Thursday, August 17, 2017

Strike [Zarbat] (Samuel Khachikian, 1964)

Bootimar (left) and Jalal in Zarbat

Zarbat
Iran, 1964, Director: Samuel Khachikian

International title: Strike. Script: Samuel Khachikian (uncredited). DoP.: Ghodratollah Ehsani. Editing: Samuel Khachikian. Art director: Hassan Paknejad, Ali Delpazir. Music.: Samuel Khachikian (selection). Cast: Arman (Jamal), Abdollah Bootimar (Dr. Kourosh Imen), Ghodsi Kashani (Shirin), Farzaneh Kazemi (Mozhgan), Jamsheed Tatar (Hossein Aghai), Reza Beik Imanverdi (Reza the Madman). Production.: Azhir Film Studio

The premiere of the film in Tehran

One of Khachikian’s most morbid thrillers, Zarbat actually begins as a melodrama – and a rather tedious one at that – in which most of Iranian cinema’s clichés of class conflict are introduced. Almost halfway into the film, however, Khachikian shifts to a meticulously designed spectacle of terror, as if in revenge for the preceding drama. Characters move into a dark territory of murder and mistaken identities. As in some of Khachikian’s other works, the setting of an ordinary house becomes a site of peril and a stage for perverse pleasures, as the director plays with filmic elements to the point of abstraction. Khachikian explains this as his attempt, after the 1950s, to “revive the alphabet of film” in Iranian cinema: “I wanted to save Iranian cinema from roohozi [a popular and vulgar form of theatre]. From the first day onwards, it wasn't the message or the content that I was concerned with. What I wanted was a precise cinema: action, correct editing, lighting and so on.”



Original newspaper ad for Strike [Zarbat]

The story of a destitute married man (played by Khachikian regular, Arman) whose daughter is the centre of attention for both a corrupt colleague and a doctor who is treating his terminally ill wife, the film refurbishes the successful triangle character relationship of Toofan. Here, again, the low budget proved fortuitous: a highly visual style with an exuberant use of the camera (and the first use of a zoom lens in a Khachikian film) recycles familiar elements and gives them a new edge. The technical influence of the director on the next generation of filmmakers could reasonably be traced to this film, as the soon-to-be new wave directors Masoud Kimiai and Khosrow Haritash were assistants to Khachikian.

Samuel Khachikian

In 1965, with the staggering success of Siamak Yasemi’s Ghanj-e Gharoun, a film which meant a return to “pre-alphabet cinema” and the undoing of all Khachikian had given to Iranian cinema. His films too started to show signs of compromise and decline, which was to continue thereafter.

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