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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Crimson Gold (review)

Made in Tehran by an Iranian director, Crimson Gold remains unseen in that country because the director refuses to submit to government editing. And that director, Jafar Panahi, has refused to attend U.S. film-festival screenings of Gold in protest of the requirement of the American government that Iranians entering U.S. be fingerprinted. As his deeply, quietly angry film demonstrates, this is an artist in tune with dichotomies and ironies and humiliations. In a city sharply divided between privilege and poverty, Hussein, a poor pizza-delivery man (Hussein Emadeddin, who really does sling slices for a living), gets tantalizing glimpses of the wealth all around him: a receipt for an absurdly expensive article of jewelry found in a handbag stolen by his equally desperate friend Ali (Kamyar Sheisi), the luxurious penthouse apartment of one of his pizza-eating customers. Bad enough that Hussein knows he’ll never spend more than mere moments in such a world, but the disdain with which he is treated — by the rich, by the servants of the rich, by the authorities — is even more demeaning. Your heart near to breaks with the shame that Hussein carries around with him, but though the film opens with one desperate, violent act and then jumps back in time in order to show how it came about, this is no attempt at justification for a terrible deed. Instead, with a kind of bleak despair, it shows us how readily, if terribly, recognizable is a culture that many Westerners would consider alien. It’s a picture of modern disaffection that would not be out of place in New York or London; set in Tehran, it can’t help but impart a sense that literally the whole world really is going to hell.


MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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