Saturday, February 4, 2017

"The Salesman" Is Humanistic Yet Often Too Meditative

When news got out of the unfortunate and very racist travel ban on people from Muslim countries, I wanted to go out and see this film to support director Asghar Farhadi who is unable to attend the Oscar ceremony due to the travel ban even though his film that he worked on is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. While I think people should go see it out of support for Farhadi, I would also suggest that people should go check it out because it is a well-crafted picture.

The Salesman is about a couple named Emad and Rana, played by Shaheb Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti, who are actors playing the lead roles in Death Of A Salesman. They becomd forced to move into a new apartment after their old apartment building literally falls apart. But as they get settled in their new apartment, its past tenant, who was a prostitute, begins to cast a large shadow over Emad and Rana once Rana gets assaulted.

Even though the crime committed on Rana is made clear, Farhadi manages to weave in plenty of intrigue. Eventually, we realize who did it and what happened. But the severity surrounding the crime is never made clear and that kind of ambiguity not only allows the audiences to fill in the pieces but it fuels the main arc of Emad.

Emad, played brilliantly by Shahab Hosseini, is portrayed initially as an average everyman yet through the actor's delivery and ever changing eye expressions, slowly peels away his humanity, revealing his thorny and brutish nature. He also leaves the audience wondering how far he may go on his pursuit of vengeance until they're shocked by how far he does go.

Special mention should also go to Taraneh Alidoosti as the battered wife Rana. Even though Rana ends up a victim, Alidoosti veers away from giving her a victim complex. She becomes more weary and fearful of her surroundings yet she still stubbornly tries to fight her way through another day. Plus, even when she is keeping still, Alidoosti always managed to hold my attention when she was on screen.

Other than the brilliant performances by the lead actors and the web of intrigue surrounding the film's most critical event, the cinematography by Hossein Jafarain is expertly done. At times, the camera gets very shaky yet it manages to work because it captures the film's chaotic tone and likely what the main characters are feeling from within. They appear all calm and collected, but deep down, they feel like they are crumbling.

But the film's biggest Achilles heel has to be the pacing. Its meditative pacing may work for some but for others that want high octane thrills, it'll be like watching paint dry. It is a vengeance tale with plenty of suspense but it is also a slow character study about a crumbling marriage.

Other than the slow pacing, I would recommend going to see The Salesman. It has bravura performances by its two main actors mixed with subtle intrigue and it is out in a time where the voices of diverse filmmakers deserve to be heard.

Grade: B+