Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Salesman

A couple of weeks ago I got to see a preview screening of The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi's taut new film about personal revenge. It plays at the Mill Valley Film Festival next week & then in Bay Area theaters in January. The story presents us with a cultured, well-educated husband & wife living in Tehran. They are about to star opposite each other in a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. In the gripping opening scene, which is in one long take & appears to be an over-stated MacGuffin, they are forced to evacuate their apartment building. They move to another apartment, previously inhabited by an elusive woman who may be a prostitute. When the wife is alone in the apartment one evening, she is assaulted by an intruder. The specific details of attack are never made explicit, but the wife is too traumatized to talk to the police, & the husband, out of a chivalrous instinct, sets out to track down the assailant himself.

Though the plot is calculated & takes many contrived side trips, the movie has an immediacy & sense of urgency. I was never sure where scenes were headed, & I liked the way that things left unsaid or unseen loomed large. In the subplot involving Death of a Salesman, it's nice seeing realistic glimpses of the production, which appears quite faithful.

Farhadi often trails the characters with a hand-held camera, & always felt like I was right in the middle of the action. Shahab Hosseini as the husband Emad is a likable & charismatic actor. It is easy to keep identifying with Emad even as his behavior becomes increasingly disappointing. There's a stage-like quality to the tension underlying every scene, & the film is unsettling. Right through its last moments, I kept re-evaluating what I thought about its moral dilemmas.

§ Forushande (The Salesman) (2016)
Asghar Farhadi, dir.
Iran, France, 125 mins.

§ Mill Valley Film Festival 39
Rafael 1, Fri, Oct 7, 7:30 PM
Rafael 2, Wed, Oct 12, 12:00 PM

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