Tehran: City of Love

 

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A fine piece of a quite different kind from other films from Iran.

 
Tehran: City of Love

Forough Ghajabagli and friend

 

Wonderfully assured and decidedly distinctive, this tragic-comedy by Ali Jaberansari is quite unlike any other Iranian film that I have seen. If the tone is not uniquely its own (I found myself thinking of Mike Leigh's first feature, Bleak Moments of 1971, as a companion piece), Tehran: City of Love creates its own world. It is one in which there is much gentle humour as we follow the fortunes of three individuals living in the city and yet what they have in common is a need for love which may or may not be met. At heart, therefore, this is a sad film about lives which under the surface are lives of desperation.

 

The casting in this film is absolutely spot on from the three leading roles right through to the minor characters. Forough Ghajabagli plays Mina a receptionist in a beauty clinic who at thirty something is conscious that her love of food contributes to her lacking beauty herself. Her situation has led to obsessive behaviour in which, adopting a sexy voice, she anonymously makes dates with clients over the phone and then stands them up while watching from a distance. However, change seems possible when a man met on a course (Aram Mahzari) is attracted by seeing her as she is.

 

Happy endings being the provenance of fiction, nothing is certain. Similarly, although Mina's friend Niloufar (Behnaz Jafari) takes the eye of Vahid (Mehdi Saki), she may or may not replace the fiancée who has broken off their engagement. Even so, influenced by Niloufar, Vahid turns away from his mournful occupation as a singer at funerals and embraces the idea of singing at weddings. The situation of Hessam (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) is rather different. He works as a bodybuilder and has been promised a small role in a film starring Louis Garrel (a running gag involves Garrel being described as France's greatest film star despite which nobody in Tehran seems to have heard of him). But then Hessam becomes mentor to a young man into bodybuilding, Arshia (Amir Reza Alizadeh), and we soon realise that, without anything being said, it is Arshia who is in fact unknowingly the object of Hessam's outlawed love.

 

Appropriately quiet and slow moving Tehran: City of Love with its ironic title is acutely aware of the comic aspects in the tale but it is always compassionate in its view of Mina, Vahid and Hessam who are never treated condescendingly. Quite the contrary in fact. The subtlety of the humour will doubtless appeal to some more than to others (personally I found myself laughing out loud at some of the small neat details) but Jaberansari, whose second feature this is, and his players are always in perfect accord. Consequently, Tehran: City of Love, although a small work, is a film that feels fully realised on its own very individual terms.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Forough Ghajabagli, Mehdi Saki, Amir Hessam Bakhtiari, Behnaz Jafari, Amir Reza Alizadeh, Aram Mahzari, Mohsen Soleimani, Heshmet Aramideh, Ali Maghsoudi, Siavash Jokar, Mahmoud Kian.

 

Dir Ali Jaberansari, Pro Babak Jalali, Screenplay Ali Jaberansari and Maryam Najafi, Ph Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah, Pro Des Payam Foroutan, Ed Ashkan Mehri, Music Hamed Sabet, Costumes Payam Foroutan.

 

Here & There Productions/Viking Film/Kavir Film-New Wave Films.
103 mins. Iran/UK/Netherlands. 2018. Rel: 11 October 2019. Cert. 12A.