Monday, February 25, 2013
Criminality in modern Iran is something one doesn't normally think of (except perhaps smuggling and trade in illegal merchandise), but of course it exists. Perhaps for Iranians it is a more pressing concern. Director Jafar Panahi takes viewers into this subculture in Crimson Gold (2003), focusing on events that lead Hussein (played by Hossain Emadeddin) into a life of petty crime, then on to a more-daring act, partly as a result of emotional distress and an assault to his ego by the actions of upper-class Iranians. Hussein is an unkempt, overweight, laconic, slothful droopy-eyed man who may have served as a soldier on the Iran-Iraq front (although it may also have been a con to get more money). He appears to be somewhat "slow," or perhaps not well schooled, though he seems to get along. Hussein and his pal Ali (played by Kamyar Sheisi) are moped pizza-delivery guys who do petty crimes (such as purse snatching) on the side. Engaged to be married to Ali's sister, he realizes that he cannot afford expensive baubles for his future wife and he then feels put down by a rich jeweler because of his social status. He is also cavalierly mistreated by members of the basij (who do not care about is loss of revenue) during an operation to arrest people attending a party. He gets a glimpse of the extravagant, hidden world of the very wealthy while delivering pizza to a posh, upscale apartment where the man of the house also uses wines and has women visit him there. One wonders if Panahi's critique is against continued class division or the folly of policing illicit activities. I was familiar with Panahi's work from Offside (2006), his tale of women being excluded from attending male soccer games and the determination of one girl to break that stricture; he has a reputation for criticizing post-revolutionary life in Iran, and his films are often banned. I look forward to seeing his This Is Not a Film (2011). I was interested in the background shots, and frightened by the traffic scenes. How anyone would dare ride a moped in that traffic craziness is beyond me. Intentionally or not, some of the traffic shots showed cars going just about anywhere the drivers chose to, including directly into oncoming traffic or against the flow, and lane didn't seem to matter much. How cars were not bouncing off each other is unclear, although one moped driver is run over in the movie.