Daily Archives: March 7, 1997

The House Is Black

From the Chicago Reader (March 7, 1997). Note: The film is now available with English subtitles. — J.R.

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The most powerful Iranian film I’ve seen is this 22-minute black-and-white 1962 documentary made by Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967), commonly regarded as the greatest 20th-century Persian poet. It’s her only film and its subject is a leper colony in northern Iran. Part of what’s so special about it is its seamless adaptation of the techniques of poetry to the techniques of film, in which framing, editing, sound, and narration all play central roles. At once lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact — without a trace of sentimentality or voyeurism, yet profoundly humanist — Farrokhzad’s view of everyday life in the colony (children at school and at play, people eating, various medical treatments) is spiritual, unflinching, and beautiful in ways that have no apparent Western counterparts; to my eyes and ears, it registers like a prayer. This extremely rare film has never been subtitled, but at a symposium on Farrokhzad’s life and work, Chicago filmmaker Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa will follow a video screening of The House Is Black with a discussion in English. Preceding this will be the premiere of a video documentary in English that I haven’t seen, Mansooreh Saboori’s I Shall Salute the Sun Once Again, and a discussion with Saboori.… Read more »

SubUrbia

Richard Linklater, adhering to the same 24-hour frame of his first three features (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise), directs a fine adaptation of Eric Bogosian’s tragicomic play about the frustrated lives of several 20-year-old suburbanites, spent mainly in parking lots and pushed to a crisis point when an old friend who’s made it big as a rock star (Jayce Bartok) stops by for a visit. Though the material is conventional to the point of generic–even in its surprises–and remains obstinately stage bound in overall ambience, the cast of mainly unknowns is so good, and Linklater is so adept at playing them off each other, that the two-hour playing time never seems overextended or inflated. With Giovanni Ribisi (especially impressive), Steve Zahn (That Thing You Do!), Amie Carey, Nicky Katt, Ajay Naidu, Samia Shoaib, and the ubiquitous Parker Posey. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, March 7 through 13. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »