Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frontier Blues

Due out on 30 July in the UK, the indie film Frontier Blues is the debut feature from Babak Jalali. Set in his native Iran along the northern border with Turkmenistan, the film is an absurdist meditation on loss and getting on with life. Four male characters are the leads and the film often alludes to the absence of women from their lives without ever really explaining how this came to be.

I wondered at the meaning myself: is the filmmaker commenting on the lack of visibility of women in Iran, or in his own life, or does it have some other meaning?

The characters are not especially sympathetic: one is an irascible minstrel who spends most of the film posing for an annoying photographer from Teheran keen to photograph the native population in situ, setting up one ridiculous, contrived pose after another; a second character is a frustrated factory worker in love with a woman who never speaks (the sole female character); a third is mentally and socially deficient and only really bonds with a donkey; and the fourth is the third character's uncle, running a failing clothes shop and given to long pauses staring into the middle distance.

This is a film long on atmosphere and short on plot. Many will find it annoying. I was impressed by the cinematography and the stylised way Jalali told his story, but was left a bit confused about the point he was making. And what happened to the women?

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