ARCHIVE REVIEW: This Is Not a Film

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This Is Not a Film
Directed by: Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
Starring: Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker who was put under house arrest in 2010 and barred from making films for the next 20 years because the government deemed his work “propaganda.”  In this extraordinary exercise in silent protest, he documents a day in his life under house arrest while simultaneously illustrating the suffocating effect that a theocratic government has on art.

That’s quite a feat for a 75 minute movie that features just three people and a pet lizard on screen.  There is never any effort to sustain a narrative or in any way create to create illusion through technique.  Panahi’s friend and co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb is not a director, and largely just stands and zooms from one spot unless instructed by Panahi to move somewhere else.  It is in that forced lack of a narrative that the movie’s intentions begin to mirror the situation Panahi has been forced into, though.  He stages a couple scenes from an unmade screenplay, only to stop in the middle of it, frustrated that explaining a film takes away from the very essence of the art.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Argo

Argo

Argo
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman

I think Argo is going to win Best Picture, if the studios play their marketing cards smartly and don’t push too hard before the end of the year.  This isn’t because it’s the best movie of the year, but it’s the kind of movie that Academy voters can agree on.  It’s very suspenseful, it has a good ensemble cast decked out in ’70s hair and it’s in part about Hollywood helping rescue hostages in Iran.

Ben Affleck has been steadily building up his directing chops in his previous features Gone Baby Gone and The Town, and in leaving contemporary Boston behind here he has created his most assured movie yet.  Argo is consistently engaging, from its washed out ’70s look to its fluid, precisely orchestrated camera movements.  The first 20 minutes, where the U.S. embassy in Iran is stormed by protesters, are brilliantly conceived.

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