Thursday 29 September 2022

Chess of the Wind: The Glorious Miniature of an Upheaval

Chess of the Wind

When Chess of the Wind premiered in November 1976, at the fifth Tehran International Film Festival, nobody knew what to make of it. A mix-up in the order of the reels at the first of three screenings—either a technical issue or a deliberate act of sabotage—made the plot almost unintelligible, while faulty projector lamps meant that the interior scenes, certain of which are artfully lit using candlelight, appeared so dark that viewers became angry. Moreover, despite the film’s historical setting—the drama unfolds in a feudal mansion, following the death of a matriarch—this tale of deceit and intrigue was a little too close to the bone for a society that had become increasingly polarized since the beginning of the seventies. Complete with breaks in the fourth wall, a delicately handled lesbian scene (the first of its kind in Iranian cinema), and an ending in which a working-class woman overthrows a male-dominated household and liberates herself, this enigmatic work was both perplexing and reflective of a changing Iran...

Read the full essay on Criterion website


Monday 5 September 2022

Focus on Filmfarsi in Paris (September 2022)

Cry of Midnight AKA Midnight Terror (1962)

A listing of the Iranian films which will be screened at L'Étrange Festival in Paris, including my documentary Filmfarsi (2019). All screenings at Forum des images, September 2022.

Filmfarsi (2019)

Sep 9, 17:45 (introduction by Ehsan) | Sep 18, 18:30

“As a long standing admirer of the New Iranian Cinema, I often wondered about its popular predecessor. Ehsan Khoshbakht has finally opened up this story.  His essayistic, meditative and cinephile analysis celebrates an unashamedly exploitative genre, steeped in sex and violence; Filmfarsi very usefully locates this crazy cinema within the Iranian popular and political culture of its time, and also allows it to find a place in the wider context of World Cinema.” — Laura Mulvey

Szyfry (Wojciech Has, 1966)

Playing at London's Closeup Cinema on October 30, 2022. – EK

Championed for his intricate narratives and hypnotic imagery by people like Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, Luis Buñuel and Martin Scorsese, Wojciech Has uses a historical frame only to bend the notions of time and space. The result, Szyfry (meaning the codes), is one of the most complex Polish films about the moral dilemmas of Second World War.

Made right after his international breakthrough, The Saragossa Manuscript, and using the same star (Zbigniew Cybulski, in one of his final roles, before dying in an accident a year later), Szyfry is about a Second World War veteran returning to Warsaw from his long London exile to meet the wife and son he has left behind. The son (played by Cybulski), a former member of the resistance, open his father's eyes to the fate of the fourth member of their family, his disappeared brother, and the inconvenient truth that he might have been a Nazi collaborator. Featuring some of Has's most staggering dream/nightmare sequences, this rarely seen gem is one of the essential films of Polish cinema of the 1960s.