Daily Archives: April 6, 2023

A Few Underpinnings of the New Iranian Cinema

This was apparently written in 2002, but I can no longer recall the circumstances or occasion for my writing it. — J.R.

During my only visit so far to Iran — as a member of the jury of the Fajr film festival in Tehran last year —- I was asked the same question repeatedly by many of the Iranians I met: “Why do you Americans [or westerners] like Iranian films so much?” And more often than not, this was followed by a second question: “Is it because they show so many poor people, which is the image of Iran that Americans [or westerners] prefer to have?” Given that many of the most valued and validated Iranian art films shown abroad are either banned or ignored on their home turf, it seemed like an understandable source of curiosity, made even more striking by the oft-reported fact that the films seen most often by most Iranians are unsubtitled, pirated videos of brand new American commercial features.

With these circumstances in mind, my usual response to their question was something like, “It’s true that Iranian art movies tend to show too many poor people. But American commercial movies tend to show too many rich people, and if you think they provide an accurate picture of the way we live, then you’re just as mistaken as we are.”

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The Window

From the Chicago Reader (October 18, 2002). — J.R.

Adapted by Mel Dinelli from a Cornell Woolrich story, this is one of the most underrated B pictures of the 40s, perhaps because neither its director (Ted Tetzlaff) nor its stars (Bobby Driscoll, Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Ruth Roman, and Paul Stewart) are strong calling cards today. Driscoll won a special Oscar for his performance as a little boy known for telling fibs who witnesses a murder from a fire escape one night but can’t get anyone to believe him. This taut thriller (1949, 73 min) is almost as close to neorealism as to noir — the details of working-class city life are especially fine. (JR)

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From the Chicago Reader (October 21, 2002). — J.R.


Much as A.I. Artificial Intelligence can be considered a posthumous message from Stanley Kubrick, conveyed by a sympathetic interpreter with a style of his own (Steven Spielberg), this can be regarded as the last word from Krzysztof Kieslowski, though delivered by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and true to his own manner. There aren’t many examples of this in film history — the posthumously realized film projects of Alexander Dovzhenko by his widow, Julia Solntseva, could be cited, but not George Hickenlooper’s extensive revamping of Orson Welles’s The Big Brass Ring — and it’s therefore an accomplishment to be applauded and treasured. Working with his usual cowriter, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Kieslowski was planning a trilogy loosely inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy when he died, and the script for Heaven was reportedly the only one close to completion. After the police refuse to heed her accusations, an English teacher in Turin (Cate Blanchett) plants a bomb in an office building to destroy a drug dealer she holds responsible for the death of her husband. Her plan goes awry; held for questioning, she insists on speaking English, and the young police officer (Giovanni Ribisi) who offers to translate her testimony immediately falls in love with her. Read more