The Salesman Always Rings Twice & Consolation is Not in His BriefCase

The Salesman directed by Asghar Fahredi played at Burns Court for the Cineworld Film Fest on November 9th. I’m sure based on its quality it’ll get a normal run at most independent theaters and I highly recommend this taut tale.

I’m biased of course, having seen and enjoyed his films in two different states. A Separation I saw on an unfairly cruel cold Austin, Texas day. The good news was that the movie was fantastic and the theater adorable (and comfortable-leather recliners, but I digress). His other two films, The Past and About Elly, I saw in my former hometown of Rochester, NY (which is always cruel and cold, but I digress again).

So back to Fahredi’s tremendous writing and directing. He’s not one to care about his audience’s emotional comfort, caring more about making the viewers question, “what would I do?” In fact, after The Salesman, I heard some women disagreeing about what they would have done. Thought provoking movies are few and far between.

Let me get back to the topic of warmth, but this time not outdoor temps, but rather emotional and psychological. Dang are Iranian relationships ice cold. I understand pride and principles, but the lack of embrace and physical touch, might drive a woman like me, mad. I do understand, however, that witholding of that sense of security certainly adds tension to the story and is also somewhat of a cultural standard. It even made me think today, as I walked the Ringling Bridge, listening to a 90’s tune by Mariah Carey (Dream Lover), that perhaps our own country is getting less affectionate in the aughts and now teens, akin to middle schoolers who become aloof adolescents (my musical comparison being Beyonce’s Lemonade). We (women collectively) ‘ain’t askin’ for love any longer, we’re just demanding respect, which I question: do we have to have to give up emotional embrace to achieve such respect?

I wanted to see The Salesman originally because I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Arthur Miller’s play. I remember an epiphany I once had in teaching Drama some years ago, that I finally understood why the play is an iconic father/son psycho drama and not just a depressing saga. Later, after hearing an NPR interview that Philip Seymor Hoffman gave regarding his stint as Willy Loman on Broadway, I wondered if he was fortelling his own demise, in how much inadequacy PSH connected to in his own self, equal to, or even more so, than the Willy Loman experience.

How this connects to the film is still something I’m wrapping my head around. Did the husband in the film feel inadequate in what revenge he sought or better to my previous comment on affection, did he feel so incapable of consoling his emotionally traumatized wife that that equaled inadequacy. I will say no more in keeping with my ‘no spoilers’ promise. But go see The Salesman and comment back. The film is worthy of discussion and thought!

Why the lobster screams: The Lobster

I pulled an Anomalisa with The Lobster, expectations being through the ceiling. I mean John C. Reilly in a bitter satire about couples and the single shaming that occasionally happens to me? I hadn’t heard ‘smug marrieds’ since the original Bridget Jones Diary book (the movies look like schlock) and I was ready for action and laughs.

But oh Yorgus Lanthimos, is it your name that makes you so damn sad? As lonely as I am some days, I’m never The Lobster lonely! Maybe I’m misremembering Dogtooth, maybe that was equally dismal, yet I gave you a pass because I was with a person who’s company I enjoyed. Or maybe because Dogtooth was so different than any other movie I had seen. Certainly there must be a story in your past about being hit in the nose with blunt force (NOT a spoiler, trust me).

But on the positive side, the actors were all amazing. Colin Farrel, who normally plays a tough Irish lad (except for the mermaid movie which I didn’t think i could take), actually played a pudgy, rejected fragile man. Rachel Weisz also was virtually unrecognizable (a poor mans Julianna Marguelis-spelling to be checked later) as Colin’s last attempt at love. And John C Reilly, he might be the most lovable actor of all time. Yo just want to give the guy a hug and make him feel better. He’s the guy in the movie we feel the most empathy for, whether it be Magnolia or Step Brothers.

The movie had the right idea, coincidentally the same idea I had in a ten minute play two man play I wrote called “Matt Ramoney”, but my play didn’t send anyone of the 25 people who watched it in to a deep depression. Goodness Yorgus, lighten up. Though I now know why the lobster screams!

First World Silly, Third World Smart

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that sadly many Americans have a superior attitude about us vs third world countries. But let me tell you, my weekend movie experiences would shatter this myth for anyone with an ounce of intelligence.

First, I saw the super tardy Rochester premiere of 2009’s Iranian film “About Elly” by Asghar Farhadi. I really liked two of his other films: “A Separation” and “The Past”. “About Elly” may have trumped both, both is acting and suspense. If you are a Netflix customer, run, don’t walk to your queue and add this film.

Without any spoilers, let me just say it’s a film about four Iranian couples who go on a weekend to the beach together. While all of the acting was phenomenal, I will make a special mention for Golshifteh Farahani,, who plays the most pivotal female role of Sepideh. Nuances of the Iranian culture are gorgeously portrayed and the uncomfortable moments carry acute verisimilitude.

On the other hand (cue Yankee Doodle Dandy), I also saw “The Martian”. Ugh. I love Matt Damon and he stretched the most out of the cotton candy plot. But shame on him and all the other first rate actors for doing absolute schlock. Literally Jeff Daniels phoned in his role and I think Dumb and Dumber Too truly took more acting chops.

I will definitely join any picket line protesting the lack of African-Americans nominated because both Straight Outta Compton and Dope are FAR (yes capital letters) superior to the ra ra shallow American “The Martian”.

Leviathan, tis the season

I was thinking how depressing a movie Leviathan (direcetd by Andrey Zvyagintsev) is, not depressing in the, ‘Boy do I feel melancholia!”, but more of a super realist/pragmatist life reference.

Yet, isn’t that what our pre-Easter/mid lent period is all about? Suffering and self-denial leading up to the…ta-da!- resurrection.

But I digress. Leviathan was up for an Academy Award for a very good reason; it resonates like a deep headache, reverberating for days after the initial onset.

Think Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead only in Russian. There’s no literal brother vs. brother feuds, but certainly the Ruskies don’t mind offing another fellow man. While I’m now against giving any awards to antagonist figures (sorry JK, enough of your types), I will give a prop to this Putinesque mayor, portrayed by Roman Madyanov.

For me, the stand out performance was by the long suffering Job-like figure of Kolya, played by a David Letterman look alike named Aleksey Serebryakov Aleksey who did win the Russian Guild of Film Critics Award. His distressed vodka swigging persona is no stereotype. His pain and suffering injustice is palpable.

And isn’t it true, that the world can be a horribly cruel place to be, if one does not avoid negativity at all costs, which includes relationships and residences? Isn’t the Buddhist existence of zero expectations a much much more satisfying way to live?
If you struggle with this existential dilemma, see Leviathan. I guarantee you’ll lead a more pure life at least until the reverberations fade away.