Iran Cinematography Part II

By | December 16, 2021

Paradoxically, it was the increasingly widespread practice of dubbing foreign films in fāarsi that gave a new boost to national production at the end of the 1940s. One of the main architects was Esma’il Kushan who, after having achieved considerable success importing foreign films dubbed in Turkey in Iran, in 1948 founded a production company in his country, with which he made the first sound film shot in Iran, Tufān-e zendegi (1948, The storm of life) directed by the famous theater actor Ali Daryabegi. The poor success of the film, a family drama centered on the practice of arranging marriages, did not discourage Kushan, who thus began to produce works of clear popular imprint such as the musical comedy, Variete-ye bahāri (1949, Variety of Spring), and above all the melodrama, Sharmsār (1950, Shame), meeting the favor of the public. These were the harbingers of a commercial cinema of Iranian production which, with genre works (mainly dramas and melodramas, but also comedies, detective stories and adventure films) with a popular layout and often inspired by the great successes of Western cinema (of which were practically unauthorized remakes), allowed the start in the fifties and the consolidation in the sixties of a particularly prosperous season, during which the production companies multiplied and the number of films produced increased tenfold. However, there was no shortage of directors who tried to create a cinema of refined artistic quality and more authentic social and cultural significance. Farrokh Ghaffari, for example, after studying cinema in Paris, he returned to his homeland where he made Jonub-e shahr (1958, The South of the city), a realistic portrait of the difficulties faced by a woman in order to survive the death of her husband; and Shab-e quzi (1964, The night of the hunchback), an episodic film in a criminal setting, inspired by some tales of the Thousand and One Nights, only to be talked about again in 1976 with the historian Zanburak (L ‘ gunner). Like Ghaffari, Ebrahim Golestan also came from documentary cinema (Yek ātash, 1961, Un fuoco, and Tappehā-ye Marlik, 1963, The hills of Marlik) and was noted for the realism of Khesht va ayene (1964, The brick and the mirror) and later for Asrār-e ganj-e darre-ye jenni (1974, The secrets of the treasure of the valley of demons): works of great rigor, which were also able to establish themselves in international festivals. For Iran 2007, please check extrareference.com.

The situation matured only at the end of the sixties, when a group of young directors, mostly trained abroad, recognized themselves in the current of the Nouvelle vague, opening up to new thematic and artistic perspectives. A movement was formed which – seizing also the propitious moment offered by the government’s more willing attitude towards cinema, following the reform program launched by the shāh in 1963 – produced a series of works in which themes of a human nature were dealt with. and social with more marked psychological truth and figurative significance, even if often forced to indulge in marked symbolism in order to escape the still tight meshes of censorship. Among the notable authors are the names of Dariyush Mehrju’i, Mas’ud Kimiya’i, Naser Taqva ‘ ie especially Amir Naderi and Bahram Beyza’i. Graduated in philosophy in the United States, Mehrju’i made his debut with the excellent detective story Almās-e 33 (1967, Diamante 33), but made a name for himself both at home and abroad by winning the Fipresci prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1970. with Gāv (1969, La vacca), written with the collaboration of the well-known Iranian writer Gholam Hosein Sa’edi. Rural drama dedicated to the hard life of a farmer who sees a cow die, his only source of livelihood, the film was opposed by censorship, which did not like the image of the country offered to the international audience. This did not prevent Mehrju’i from making Postchi (The Postman) in 1972, in which, through the story of a civil servant, a critical cross-section of the contradictions inherent in the forced development to which the country was subjected by neocolonialism is offered, and Dāyere-ye minā (1974, The blue circle), dedicated to the social drama of health care. Kimiya’i imposed himself with Qeysar (1969), considered one of the most important films of Iranian cinema, and Khāk (1973, Terra), dedicated to the relationship between peasants, their fields and landowners, which were followed by numerous other works which, of a poetics based on the representation of urban marginalization and on the comparison between individual dramas and mass movements, placed the director among the most representative authors of the period, only to find him marginalized in the post-revolutionary period. Taqva’i, already known for his documentary work and especially for some short films, imposed himself with the debut feature film Ārāmesh dar hozur-e digarān (1972, Calma in the presence of others), an acute reflection on the scourge of corruption told through the character of an army general, which was followed by intense activity both in cinema both on television. But it was Naderi and Beyza’i who represented the highest expressive possibilities of the Iranian nouvelle vague. Naderi concretized in his works a pure cinematographic instinct destined to represent the destiny of struggle and resistance in the solitude of men. His work moved from an acutely realistic initial phase characterized by films such as Khodā hāfez rafiq (1971, Goodbye friend) and Tangnā (1973, The dead end) to a symbolic and impressionist second season (Davande, 1985, The runner; Āb, bād, khāk, 1987, Water, wind, Earth). He later moved to the United States where he continued to make works of considerable value. Beyza’i, writer, scholar, man of the theater, one of the main names in Iranian cinema, after having made himself known with the short film Safar (1972, Journey), stood out for his ability to combine the themes of Persian culture with a glance cinematically very intense and a frank communicativeness. Among his works Ragbār (1972, Acquazzone), debut film and realistic insight into life in Tehran seen through the eyes of a master; Gharibe va me (1975, The stranger and the fog), set in a small seaside village caught in the grip of intolerance; Kalāgh (1976, Il corvo), the story of a journalist who carries out a television investigation into a missing girl; and Cherike-ye Tārā (1978, The Ballad of Tara), an adventurous tale about an ancient sword inherited from a woman. Beyza’i was able to keep faith with her inspiration even after the 1979 revolution, as amply testified by the later Bashu, gharibe-ye kuchek (1988; Bashu, the little foreigner), still an intense drama centered on the theme of intolerance experienced on background of the conflict with Iraq through the relationship that is established between a mother from a northern village and a war orphan who was adopted in spite of herself.

Iran Cinematography Part II