Best Telluride Pic, Hands Down

Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation, a forthcoming Sony Classics release which won the Golden Bear at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, is far and away the finest film I’ve seen at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival…and I didn’t even see the first 40 minutes’ worth. But soon after I slipped into the Chuck Jones theatre early yesterday afternoon I knew I was in the presence of something genuine, compassionate, complex and unflinching. This Iranian film is affecting and profound in a way that transcends nationality and culture and any other obstacle you can think of.

Given the thick-headed reputation of the Academy’s notorious foreign-language branch, it’s conceivable that A Separation might not receive its just due, which would at least be a nomination for a Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar. I’m not predicting that a torch-carrying mob will storm Academy headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. if this fails to happen, but it will be a moment of Profound Industry Shame.

Shot in Teheran, A Separation (previously called Nader and Simin, A Separation) is basically about class and repression and violated honor and families. Particularly two families — a relatively well-to-do one and a lower-class one headed by a hot-tempered husband and a submissive, deeply religious wife. The plot centers on a claim by the latter couple that the pater familias who hired the poor wife to take care of his Alzheimer’s-afflicted dad pushed her down a flight of stairs and caused her to miscarry. Iranian law says this can be rectified with a payoff, which the angry, lower-class husband desperately needs to pay off creditors.

Farhadi is a master filmmaker whose aesthetic focus and talent at this moment sits on a precipice far above the Hollywood efforts of Scorsese-Spielberg. The combination of the simplicity of his technique and the deeply compelling performances (the cast is headed by Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat and Sarina Farhadi) are blended in this instance with a story that hits on a riveting moral-ethical issue. The upshot is a dividend that is socially and psychologically revealing in a way that is truly exceptional.

The Telluride AARP crowd was on its feet and applauding like mad when the lights came up following yesterday’s showing.

Yes, going apeshit over two-thirds of a film is ill-advised. I made that mistake when I raved about Rodrigo Garcia’s Mother and Child, only to realize that the last 30% of the drama, which I was forced to miss, didn’t work as well as the first 70%. But endings are everything, and any film working as well as A Separation does for the last two-thirds = unassailable. I don’t care if the first 40 minutes is about the use of donkey turds for fertilizer. I’ll see the part I missed at the Toronto Film Festival or in New York late this month.

Sony Classics will release A Separation on 12.30.11.

  • Bilge Ebiri

    Farhadi is the absolute real deal, and one of the best filmmakers to come out of Iran in quite some time. His previous film ABOUT ELLY, which also won a major award at Berlin a couple of years ago, was picked up for distribution in the U.S. but, as far as I can tell, never released. The guy is a master.

  • bill weber

    You might want to check out Leila Hatami’s performances in “Deserted Station” and “Leila.”

    Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf are doing just fine without Oscars.

  • Kristopher Tapley

    Absolutely agree. Saw it this morning and was floored.

  • Cobraverde

    I couldn’t keep my eyes off this film from up in my projection booth. when it opened in Ireland earlier in the year. Riveting, right the way through the end credits – through out which I kept the house lights off to the very last second.

  • Chris Willman

    It IS great. But how the hell did you understand what was going on, that far in? Rest assured the first 40 minutes aren’t any less terrific.

  • rick blaine

    Saw A Separation earlier this year and a standing ovation is well deserved. It’s simply superb. But walking into a film 40 minutes late (or leaving halfway through) is just, well, with all due respect, bewildering. Never done it once. Hell, I’m there as soon as the studio logo comes up. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    Wells to Blaine: I have four or five or six stories a day to file, Einstein. It’s a daily/hourly column…right? I wail as hard and fast as I can during film festivals in order to set aside enough time to not miss this or that film, but sometimes you have to fix things or catch mistakes or do factual follow-ups. That takes time, obviously, so I elected to do that yesterday rather than catch A Separation from the beginning. I felt it was more important that the last column story I was doing read cleanly and correctly, etc. In any event I saw two-thirds and that felt like a very nutritious meal at that.

  • zina spinarz

    A Separation is a really good movie. I saw this movie. I agree that Farhadi is a master filmmaker. He did a fabulous job. Teheran is the best place for such kind of film shooting. Admirable work done.

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    I have around a half dozen or maybe six tales each day to produce, Einstein. This is a daily/hourly ray…suitable? We wail seeing that hard and fast because i can while in picture celebrations in order to put aside plenty of time to not really neglect that or this video, but sometimes you must correct points or perhaps pick up faults or perhaps do truthful follow-ups. Which will take period, of course, well, i selected to accomplish this yesterday rather than find The Parting before it starts. I personally thought that it was more important how the previous gleam narrative I’d been doing read through easily and correctly, for example. In any event My partner and i saw two-thirds and therefore sensed just like a pretty nutritious food during this.

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