Daily Archives: May 4, 2007

Lucky You

Like The Hustler, this absorbing Las Vegas story about a professional poker player (Eric Bana) uses gambling to tell a tale of moral regeneration. But Bana can’t carry a picture like Paul Newman, and poker proves less photogenic than pool, so one’s attention gets diverted to Drew Barrymore, playing Bana’s goody two-shoes love interest, a fledgling nightclub singer. As the hero’s father (and poker rival), Robert Duvall is good as usual, though I couldn’t quite buy him as a former English teachereven if he did name his son Huckleberry. Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys) directed a script he cowrote with Eric Roth (Munich, Forrest Gump). PG-13, 124 min. (JR)… Read more »

Documentaries By Ebrahim Golestan

This remarkable program collects four pioneering shorts by Iranian writer and filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan, who began producing industrial films for the oil companies in the 50s and evolved into an ambitious and accomplished artist; in some ways his documentaries are comparable to the early work of Alain Resnais. The Wave, Coral and Rock (1961, 40 min.), the most conventional, chronicles the building of a jetty and the laying of pipelines, while A Fire (1961, 25 min.), edited by the great poet Forough Farrokhzad, chronicles a protracted oil fire. The Hills of Marlik (1963, 15 min.) beautifully and suggestively documents archaeological excavations, and The Iranian Crown Jewels (1965, 15 min.), commissioned and then banned by the shah’s cultural ministry, is a formally dazzling and politically provocative brief on its subject. The first three are in English and subtitled Farsi; the last is unsubtitled, but copies of the English text will be provided. (JR)… Read more »

The Secret Of The Treasure Of The Jinn Valley

Having moved to London in 1967, the distinguished Iranian writer, translator, producer, and director Ebrahim Golestan returned to his homeland to make this unpleasant allegorical comedy (1972), his second and final feature to date. A bitter satire about the shah’s corrupt regime, it centers on a poor peasant who plunges into a hidden cave, discovers a cache of valuable antiques, and becomes a grotesque nouveau riche tyrant. Golestan tackled a related theme in his exquisite 1965 short The Iranian Crown Jewels (see listing for Documentaries by Ebrahim Golestan), which was commissioned and then banned by the shah’s cultural ministry, but that film attacked the very elitism that subsumes this one. The print being shown is badly faded, but the period ambience is still vivid. In Farsi with subtitles. 118 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Hawk Is Dying

A brooding auto upholsterer (Paul Giamatti), living in central Florida with his divorced sister (an effective Rusty Schwimmer) and plagued with guilt after the death of his autistic nephew (Michael Pitt), becomes obsessed with training, or at least taming, a red-tailed hawk. Giamatti is commanding as ever (without attempting a regional accent anything like Schwimmer’s), and writer-director Julian Goldberger, adapting a novel by Harry Crews, impressed me with his lighting, framing, and minimalistic use of his own music. But these strengths seldom mesh persuasively, and the movie’s southern grotesquerie pales beside something like Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter (1974). With Michelle Williams. 106 min. (JR)… Read more »

Brick and Mirror

A high point of Iran’s first new wave, this 1965 masterpiece by Ebrahim Golestan takes its title from the classical Persian poet Sa’adi, who wrote, “What the old can see in a mud brick, youth can see in a mirror.” The philosophical implications of this are fully apparent in Golestan’s tale of a young man who finds a baby girl in his cab and spends a night with his girlfriend debating what to do with the infant. Though this black-and-white ‘Scope film superficially resembles Italian neorealism, especially in its indelible look at Tehran street life and nightlife in the 60s, its spirit is a mix of Dostoyevsky and expressionism: minor characters periodically step forward to deliver anguished soliloquies, contributing to an overall lament both physical and metaphysical. In Farsi with subtitles. 124 min. Golestan will take part in a discussion after the Saturday screening. Reviewed this week in Section 1. a Sat 5/5, 7:45 PM, and Thu 5/10, 6 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center. … Read more »

Before the Revolution

Ebrahim Golestan: Lion of Iranian Cinema

WHEN The Secret of the Treasure of the Jinn Valley Fri 5/4, 7:30 PM, Mon 5/7, 7:45 PM; early documentaries Sat 5/5, 3 PM, Wed 5/9, 8:15 PM; Brick and Mirror Sat 5/5, 7:45 PM, Thu 5/10, 6 PM

WHERE Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State

PRICE $9, $7 students

INFO 312-846-2800

MORE Ebrahim Golestan in attendance on Friday and Saturday

A Symposium on Ebrahim Golestan

WHEN Sun 5/6, 1:30-4:30 PM

WHERE Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston

PRICE Free

INFO 847-491-4000

MORE Ebrahim Golestan in attendance

Imagine how different our understanding of film history would be if we were denied access to everything made before the so-called sound revolution. A much more profound revolution interferes with our grasp of the history of Iranian film. During the fundamentalist revolution of 1979, the Islamic clergy said cinema was a form of Western exploitation as corrupt as prostitution and over 100 movie theaters were burned to the ground.

Much of what we know today as the Iranian New Wave — the films of Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Jafar Panahi — reflects some of that anxious background. But there were actually two new waves: most of the major figures from the first were driven into exile, their films rendered practically invisible in the process.… Read more »