sun 21/04/2019

DVD: Taxi Tehran | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Taxi Tehran

DVD: Taxi Tehran

Inventive and subversive faux-documentary

Dangerous driving: Jafar Panahi in 'Taxi Tehran'

Taxi Tehran fits neatly into a recent tradition of films set entirely in cars; Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth comes to mind, as well as Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten. Initially we’re led to believe that we’re watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary, assembled from dashboard footage shot on a cheap digital camera by director Jafar Panahi as he drives a taxi through the streets of Tehran. There’s inevitably more to it; that the various passengers’ conversations are scripted becomes quickly apparent, despite the winningly natural performances which Panahi draws from his uncredited cast.

Already banned from making films for a 20-year period, Panahi was placed under house arrest in 2011 – his This Is Not a Film was smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake. That he’s now seemingly able to leave his apartment unsupervised has to be a cause for celebration, and there’s no obvious sign that he’s under any surveillance.

Panahi’s taxi-driving skills aren’t up to much; he refuses to accept payment and it doesn’t look as if he’s passed the Tehran equivalent of "The Knowledge". For all the film’s warmth there’s a melancholy undertow, the director’s aimless circumnavigating hinting at the frustration felt by someone forbidden from doing what he does best. The tone can shift abruptly from tragedy to farce; a bloodied accident victim is ferried to hospital while wife and siblings squabble about his will, followed by an extended scene involving an old friend who in the past has supplied Panahi with illegal Western DVDs.

Anyone who’s seen a Tom and Jerry short will know that the goldfish bowl carried by two women will shatter when Panahi’s braking is too sudden, though the fish are rescued with a plastic bag and radiator water. Another friend tells of a recent mugging, and there’s a poignant conversation with a prominent female lawyer, also barred from practicing her trade. The sharpest fare is Panahi’s verbose young niece, shooting her own school project and lecturing her uncle on the role of the director. No DVD extras are provided apart from the theatrical trailer, but this is a wise, witty film which deserves repeated viewings.

The sharpest fare is Panahi’s verbose young niece

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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