Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Farhadi’s Fireworks Wednesday
is the time of Red Wednesday, the Festival of Fire, or Chaharshanbe Suri. Throughout
Iran and the Persian diaspora, the Wednesday before Nowruz is a time for
families to come together, but that will not be happening in an Asghar Farhadi
film. The Oscar-winning director of A Separation and About Elly was never
a stranger to family dysfunction. He had already explored some of its extreme
manifestations in 2006’s Fireworks
which re-releases this Wednesday in New York at Film Forum.
is young cleaning woman working for a temp agency who is just giddy at the
prospect of her approaching marriage. The married couple that will employ her
today will do everything possible to curb that enthusiasm. Like so many Iranian
films, the act of leaving is a major theme in Fireworks. Morteza and Mojdeh will be leaving bright and early the
next morning for Dubai, at least for a vacation, but possibly longer. You never
know about these things when leaving Iran. Unfortunately, their flat is in
state of shambles. Partly, this is a result of the collision Morteza’s fist had
with the window the night before.
was Morteza that retained Rouhi from the agency, but once he returns to the
office, Mojdeh tries to dismiss her. Although they definitely get off on the
wrong foot, Mojdeh eventually finds work for the guileless girl. She sends her
next door to snoop on the woman she suspects is having an affair with Morteza.
This is relatively easy to do, since the divorced Simin runs an unregulated
beauty salon out of her apartment. Rouhi takes a genuine liking to the
semi-scandalous woman, who is already struggling with a landlord determined to
evict her. She hardly needs Mojdeh’s neurotic accusations in addition.
to the Islamist rules governing the Iranian film industry, men and women are
not allowed to touch on-screen, but exceptions often seem to slip through, as
when the exasperated Morteza strikes out at Mojdeh. It is an ugly moment, but
Farhadi frames it in a way that lessens the jarring impact. Morteza immediately
regrets his action, but it keeps the audience on-guard for the rest of the
film, as well they should be.
are several Iranian filmmakers who can deftly build tension through
claustrophobic family drama, but Farhadi is the master. As soon as Rouhi enters
that flat, we get the sense very bad things will inevitably happen. Much like Separation and Elly, Fireworks is an
exhausting film that might telegraph some of its twists, but Farhadi still
manages to make them feel devastating in the moment. Hadieh Tehrani is
absolutely riveting and at times down right harrowing as the overwrought
Mojdeh. In telling contrast, Pantea Bahram lends the film grace and dignity as
her presumed rival. Taraneh Alidoosti is convincingly immature as Rouhi, but
that makes her an appropriately confused witness to the angst and
recriminations that unfold.
is not a political film per se, it is clear Islamist attitudes towards
women are not doing Miss Simin any favors. In fact, it makes her awkward
position all the more difficult to maintain. The sex fiend known as “The Bat” that
has apparently been preying on single women also might have thematic significance,
but Farhadi leaves it under-developed. Regardless, there are plenty of domestic
pyrotechnics to supply plenty of shock and awe. Highly recommended for fans of
Farhadi, Persian cinema, and ruthlessly naturalistic family dramas, Fireworks Wednesday opens this (Red) Wednesday
(3/16), at Film Forum.
Labels: Asghar Farhadi, Iranian Cinema