Friday, July 27, 2018

Vahid Jalilvand's NO DATE, NO SIGNATURE: The arrival of a fine new filmmaker from Iran

New York City's venerable art house, Film Forum, reopens this coming week with a new screen and a new and most welcome Iranian film entitled NO DATE, NO SIGNATURE. As co-written (with Ali Zarnegar) and directed by sophomore filmmaker Vahid Jalilvand (shown below), the movie is very nearly as good as much of the work of Iran's more experienced filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi. Via its specific, small-scale key incident, the film slowly grows into a hugely compelling situation that encompasses an entire community and culture.

Misters Jalilvand and Zarnegar have created what you might call a "hospital procedural" in which the cause of death is paramount but just slightly unclear.

Responsibility and guilt hover over quite a number of people involved here, but the two main recipients are the husband/father Moosa (Navid Mohammadzadeh, shown below) of a family clearly having some trouble making financial ends meet, and the prominent Dr. Nariman of the local hospital (played by Amir Agha'ee, further below) who seems to be having no financial problem at all.

How these two meet and proceed thereafter is the thread that binds the movie, which is full of Iranian culture and mores, some of which are easily understood, while others may take more consideration by those of us who've not lived in a society such as this. Still, so much that we see and hear in this film is indeed "international."

How the police and judicial system proceed with their investigation, together with the way in which the medical establishment works (or doesn't quite) -- it's all here, woven into the fabric of the film with great skill and subtlety. And the death at the center of the movie is among the most surprising and quietly compelling in cinema.

Without ever raising its voice (though its characters sometimes do), the film manages to be feminist and anti-fundamentalist via the look we get into the thoughts and actions of its two major female characters: Sayeh, the doctor's lover (Hediyeh Tehrani, above), who also works as a doctor at the hospital, and Leila, Moosa's not-so-acquiescent wife (Zakieh Bebahani, shown below).

Both of these women add to the depth and strength of the film by constantly nudging their men toward (or occasionally, as in Sayeh's case, away from) greater responsibility. Class, economics, and reputation come to the fore, and are handled with just as much skill as all else in this arresting movie about ethics, morality, autopsies and chickens.

No Date, No Signature proves a fine way to reopen Film Forum, and should also greatly please fans of the immaculate and thoughtful work of Asghar Faradi. Released by Distrib Films US, running 103 minutes and in Farsi with English subtitles, the movie has its U.S. theatrical premiere this coming Wednesday, August 1, in New York City at Film Forum, and will open on August 10 in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. To view all past and upcoming playdates, cities and theaters, simply click here and then click on Watch Now on the small task bar midway down the page.

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