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DVD Review: THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN



Studio: Olive Films
Year: 2000
Cast:
Director: Marziyeh Meshkini
Release Date: February 07, 2006
Rating: Not Rated for
Run Time: 01h:13m:54s
Genre(s): foreign, drama

THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN

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A triptych of coming-of-age stories from Iran.

Movie Grade: B-

DVD Grade: C+

It's easy to claim too much for this movie (as Richard PeÒa does on the commentary track), and I don't want the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction and come off as merely contrary. (How's that for a caveat to open a review?) This is one of those films that's actually sort of better in theory than in practiceóit's not a bad idea for a movie, but watching it, a lot of it feels kind of obvious and heavy handed. More knowledgeable students of film than I can speak to the resurgence of the Iranian film community on the international scene; on its own merits, this is a film that you can't help but respect, but may not actually enjoy all that much.

This is actually three short films, loosely connected, having more thematic resonance with one another than story overlap. As you might surmise from the film's title, each of the three episodes focuses on a woman, each in a different stage of life; each takes place in a single day. You'd be foolish to be overly hasty and draw grand conclusion about the rights of women in contemporary Iran based exclusively on this movie, so let's just take a look at the individual stories. Each bears the name of its hero, and the first, Hava, takes place on the title character's ninth birthdayóthe day, she is told, that she leaves childhood and most don the chador. Hava fights for one last gasp of a playdate, with her friend, a boy, Hassan. Is that freighted with enough psychological baggage for you?

The film aspires to a kind of Middle Eastern Neorealist authenticity, which is a nice idea, but in fact means that we get a film full of wooden performances from a cast that frequently seems uncomfortable in front of the camera. And so the event of this story doesn't really happen, in a wayóit's a heartfelt piece of writing, about leaving childish things behind. But what we get instead is a short film with actors who are game but maybe not so talented, led by a director more interested in metaphor than human emotion. Which is a really, really bad trait in a director.

Ahoo offers us some great striking images: men on horseback chasing down a pack of women wearing chadors and riding bicycles (sort of a Tour de Chador, if you will), and we soon learn that the woman wants a divorce, and the man on the horse, her husband, doesn't want to give her one. We get some wonderfully poetic pictures of flight, escape, and freedom, with the desert on one side, the sea on the otheróit's a great visual representation of the oppressiveness of the patriarchy. But it does go on, long after we get it; and there are a few too many portentous slo-mo shots of horse's hooves, for my taste.

Finally, Hoora brings us a fair dose of absurdism, sort of Ionesco at the beachóthe title character is a grandmother, wheeled out of the airport on a luggage cart by a young man and into the mall. She consistently tries to make him her grandsonóshe does the same thing to all the young men she meetsóbut her focus is on more important matters: shopping. She's madly acquisitive, and buys everything in sight and takes it all to the beach. The point must be about the juxtaposition of poverty and excess, and there you have it. A still might have served as well.

PeÒa's commentary track (he's from the Film Society of Lincoln Center) is better on Iranian film generally than on the particulars of this movie; also on the disc is a photo gallery (stills set to soundtrack music), a trailer, weblinks for the film and the distributor, and an essay by "acclaimed author" Shirin Neshat. You can read an abridged version on your PC, or go old school and check out the paper copy that accompanies the DVD.

Posted by: Jon Danziger - September 30, 2010, 1:28 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: iran, triptych




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