Tehran Taboo (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017
Dir.: Ali Soozandeh; Animation; Elmira Rafizadeh, Bilal Yasar, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Negar Mona Alizadeh, Arash Marandi; Austria/Germany, 2017, 96 min.
First time director Ali Soozandeh shows us the seedy underbelly of Iran’s tightly controlled society, where drugs, illegal sex and all sorts of corruption are part of a daily routine. Using rotoscoped characters and a mixture of 3D and drawn backgrounds, he evokes a Tehran full of psychotic men and women being punished for their hypocrisy.
The central character is Pari (Rafizadeh), a prostitute, who takes her mute son Elias (Yasar) with her to work. The first sequence is symbolic of all what follows: Pari is giving a man a blowjob in the front of the car, whilst Elias is sitting in the back, experimenting with an condom. Suddenly, Pari’s customer spots his daughter on the pavement, she is walking hand-in-hand with a boyfriend. The customer, enraged, shouts at the young man, calling him a pervert. He pushes Pari aside, and crashes his car.
Pari is trying in vain to get Elias enrolled at a special need school. But her attempts are unsuccessful, since her husband, serving a long jail sentence for drug dealing (“I gave them 20 million to avoid the death penalty, now they want ten million for my freedom”), refuses to sign the application form wilk not allow Pari a divorce. When she asks the clerical Judge Adel to help her, he denies her rights – but finds a nice flat for her, where he can visit her at his leisure, loving the rough sex she provides. In the apartment block Pari, pretending to be a nurse, meets Sara (Ebrahimi), who rather would work as a teacher than have children with her repressive husband Mohsen. Sara looks after Elias, whilst Pari uses Judge Abdel to get her son into a school.
The third narrative strand involves Donya (Alizadeh), who has a one-night stand with musician/DJ Babak (Marandi) and needs an operation to have her hymn replaced for her marriage the following week. When Pari tries to help both Sara and Donya, she discovers that both women have secrets that will lead to tragedy.
Soozandeh makes use of mirrors and other reflective backgrounds to show the reality, hiding behind the action in front. A typical example of male society is Sara’s father-in-law, a diabetic, who uses Elias to fetch the hidden chocolate from the shelves, and watches pornographic films in Elias’ presence – but is alert enough to switch the TV channels to the state-controlled news, when Sara comes into the room. Although the narrative is sometimes too heavy-handed, Soozandeh succeeds in painting a picture of utter male debauchery and violence behind the curtain of religious purity. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 17-28 MAY 2017 | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE