Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema ’16: Risk of Acid Rain
is hard for a retiree like Mr. Manouchehr to connect with other people. In his
case, it is largely due to his introverted personality, but the policies of his
government will not help foster the cautious camaraderie he finds in a divey
Tehran hotel. He came to looking for a long lost childhood friend, but experiences
cross-generational companionship with two “disaffected youths” in Behtash
Sanaeeha’s exquisitely humanistic chamber drama Risk of Acid Rain (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema.
title comes from a fleeting and somewhat misleading reference—so potential
viewers should completely disregard it. Happily, this is not an eco-treatise,
it is a story about friendship and loneliness. Mr. Manouchehr has been retired
from a tobacco company for years, but he keeps coming to work anyway out of
boredom. Since he has nothing tying him down, Manouchehr takes an overnight
trip to Tehran hoping to track down Khosro. Apparently, they were inseparable
as boys, but a rift cleaved them apart in early adulthood. Unfortunately, the
address he sleuthed out turns out to be several years out of date.
doggedly tracking Khosro, Manouchehr stays at a one-star hotel, where the
slacker-stoner Kaveh works as the desk clerk. Kaveh’s platonic classmate Masha
is also fixture in the hotel lobby, because she has no place else to go. Rather
inconveniently, she has a headscarf violation hanging over her head after checking
herself out of a sanitarium against her grandmother’s wishes. This would be the
perfect spot for her to lay low, were it not for the nightly visit from the
morals police. Frankly, she needs an “uncle” like Manouchehr and he needs to be
needed, whether he realizes it or not.
Rain might sound like a
constant parade of quirky schmaltz, but it really represents the road not taken
by films like Marigold Hotel and Quartet. It is a rigidly reserved,
scrupulously dignified, and acutely sensitive film. There is not a lot of flash
and dazzle, but the film still pays off enormously thanks to the realistically hesitant
chemistry shared by the trio.
poet Shams Langroodi is quietly terrific as the world weary, guilt-racked Manouchehr.
Every line on face is like a verse of poetry. His co-screenwriter Maryam
Moghaddam is also quite poignant as the more outgoing Masha. However, Pooriya
Rahimi Sam steals scene after scene as the snarky-on-the-outside but not-so-secretly-insecure
of Acid Rain is a great film,
saddled with a terrible title. Of course, that is far better than the inverse. Its
drama of friendship and aging is universally accessible, yet there are complications
specific to Iran that will make viewers shake their heads in frustration with
the Islamist system. Ultimately, it is a distinctively sad and forgiving film.
Very highly recommended, Risk of Acid
Rain screens this Saturday (5/21) at the Billy Wilder Theater, as part of
UCLA’s annual Iranian film showcase.
Labels: Iranian Cinema, UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema '16