Tehran Taboo

 

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Women play key roles in this portrayal of their lot in Iran made by a man.

 
Tehran Taboo

  

Ali Soozandeh is an Iranian who left his home country to live in Germany and that seems a sensible thing to do judging by what this first feature of his shows us of life in Tehran. He is both writer and director and, having a background in animation, he has chosen to make Tehran Taboo as a work which, while employing actors, applies rotoscoping over their images to create a totally stylised work. The look of the finished film is thus akin to an animated work but this is not a piece for children as the 15 certificate confirms. Recently the social concerns in The Breadwinner (2017) made it a film of adult appeal without ruling it out for children, but here the story's sexual elements are central.

 

We have had many films about patriarchal societies be they enacted dramas or documentaries and that means that what Tehran Taboo has to say is hardly new. That being so, the relatively unfamiliar technique, probably best known for its use on occasion by Richard Linklater, brings a welcome freshness to bear as the film tells its three intertwined tales of modern city life. First, we have a mother, Pari (Elmira Rafizadeh), who, having a mute young son (Bilal Yasar) to care for and a husband in jail, has turned to prostitution to get by. Next, there's Pari's neighbour, Sara (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), a married woman under the thumb of her husband and his family and now pregnant. The third thread concerns a young musician, Babak (Arash Marandi), whose one-night stand with Donya (Negar Mona Alizadeh) leads to a claim for money from this proclaimed bride-to-be so that her hymen can be repaired to suggest that she is still a virgin.

 

What unites these storylines apart from the setting is the view of Tehran as a city of hypocrisy and blackmail especially when it comes to sexual matters. Few, if any, men are to be trusted. Thus, Pari owes getting quality accommodation to becoming the paid mistress of a married judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Sara's respectable father-in-law secretly watches porn and a new client for Pari proves to be Sara's husband. Nor are things necessarily better lower on the social scale as is proved when a janitor seizes his chance to be a blackmailer and relishes an opportunity to kill a cat.

 

Tehran Taboo is a well-paced piece of storytelling, quite lively and even with occasional hints of humour despite the dark subject matter. However, burying the players beneath the rotoscoping does tend to lessen the human impact and the climax plays like a self-consciously set piece rather than an affecting tragedy. Nevertheless, Soozandeh's methods are striking and his sincerity in exposing Tehran is not to be doubted. Tehran Taboo is less than a perfect film, but it's an interesting one.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Elmira Rafizadeh, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Arash Marandi, Bilal Yasar, Negar Mona Alizadeh.

 

Dir Ali Soozandeh, Pro Frank Geiger, Ali Samadi Ahadi, Mark Fencer and Armin Hofmann, Screenplay Ali Soozandeh with Grit Kienzlen, Ph Martin Gschlacht, Art Dir Ali Soozandeh, Ed Frank Geiger and Andrea Mertens, Music Ali N. Askin, Costumes Erika Navas, Head of Digital Painting Alireza Darvish.

 

Little Dream Entertainment/Coop99 Filmproduktion/ZDF/Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF)-Peccadillo Pictures.
96 mins. Germany/Austria. 2016. Rel: 5 October 2018. Cert. 15.