Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
PSIFF ’16: Atomic Heart
part of his 2009 fiscal reform package, Ahmadinejad offered a subsidy of
roughly fifteen dollars to all Iranians, but somehow supporters of his
political party seemed to be the only one who got it. It doesn’t mean anything
to Arineh and Nobahar, since their relatives will be claiming theirs. However,
it will make it impossible to withdraw money on the night of the mass deposit.
That will be dashed inconvenient when their night on the town takes a surreal
turn in Ali Ahmadzadeh’s indescribably weird Atomic Heart (clip
screens during the 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
and Nobahar much prefer western style toilets—and who can blame them. They will
wax poetic about them, claiming they were in fact an Iranian invention.
However, their riffing often sounds like it holds a doth-protest-too-much sarcasm.
Regardless, they probably wouldn’t be in a film that wears its Pink Floyd
references on its sleeve, if they were not somewhat progressively inclined.
They certainly aren’t getting anything from Ahmadinejad and they understand
only too well why their friend Kami is immigrating to Australia. Unfortunately,
shortly after picking him up from the side of the road, Arineh has a minor
these matters are resolved on the streets of Tehran with a quick cash payment.
Of course, that is not an option tonight, thanks to the big “welfare” payout,
as Arineh mockingly calls it. However, a stranger comes along, who eventually
pays off the other driver, after snarkily observing for a while. As strangers
go, he is particularly strange—and intense. He has no car of his own, but
wherever the two women go, he mysteriously appears. They are in his debt and he
is not about to let them forget it, but he will beat the long way around the
bush before explaining how he intends to collect. First, he will introduce them
to his old friend Saddam Hussein, who is supposedly still alive, living in
hiding in his favorite city in the world: Tehran.
demonic, extraterrestrial, psychotic, or some combination of the three, the stranger
is one of the smoothest, slickest, creepiest characters you will ever want to
meet on film. Mohammad Reza Golzar (former guitarist for the Persian pop band
Arian) calls and raises every Tarantino movie ever with his sinisterly
charismatic, pop-culture reference-dropping monologues. He is absolutely
electric. Atomic Heart will leave
most viewers reeling he is a major reason why.
the flip side, Mehrdad Sedighiyan is almost impossibly laid back as the laconic
Kami, but quite memorably so. In between, Taraneh Alidoosti and Pegah Ahangarani
bicker and banter together in perfect synch. It is obvious they are smart, but
frustrated by life, choosing aimless mediocrity, because why not?
The irony in Atomic
Heart is massive, perhaps even cosmic. Ahmadzadeh gives us reasons to
believe and doubt the stranger really is some kind of being from beyond and the
world is on the brink of an apocalypse. Then again, it probably often feels
that way in Tehran. One of the oddest, most wonderfully unsettling films to
come out of Iran in recent years, Atomic
Heart screens this Saturday (1/9) and Sunday (1/10), as part of this year’s
Labels: Iranian Cinema, PSIFF '16