Urgent Salesman Preference

Even without the recent flare-up of the Trump Muslim ban and the natural, humanist instinct to respond to that, Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman should be — is — the clear favorite among the Best Foreign Language feature nominees. Farhadi can’t help but exude brilliance, such that even a respectably midrange effort like The Salesman (which, despite its admirably unhurried pacing, subtle plot turns and fascinating social undercurrents, isn’t quite the equal of A Separation or The Past) is clearly superior to the other four nominees — Toni Erdmann, Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, Tanna. On top of which we have had the attempted Muslim travel ban (thankfully neutered by the courts), and…well, what other choice in the wake of that?

From my 5.21.16 Cannes review: “What makes Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman so absorbing is that most of the reactions to the attack upon Rana — rage, shock, suspicion, confusion, bitterness, territoriality, a plan of revenge — happen within. Only Emad’s search for the attacker is acknowledged. Everything else is smothered.

“Especially in Eman’s case. His wife has been attacked but just as importantly (to him) his man-of-the-house pride has been wounded and he wants his vengeance. On one hand he’s obviously justified in wanting to punish his wife’s assailant, but this isn’t a Liam Neeson thing — it’s a matter of Iranian machismo.

“The three Farhadi films that everyone has seen and admired (A Separation, About Elly, The Past) are part whodunits and part suspense stories. His method is to unpeel the evidence bit by bit, and with no great haste. He’s no slowboat, but he always reveals the particulars and especially the motives of his characters at a natural, gradual pace, knowing that viewers will hang in there and put it all together. But Farhadi takes it step by step, and is more into revealing than showing.”

Posted on 1.31.17 by Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn: “Before the Trump Administration banned all Iranian citizens for 30 days, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman was a thrilling, intelligent look at the aftermath of a traumatic event. Now, it’s an essential one.

“While awards season is a glittering distraction from the real world, it’s also an international platform, and Farhadi has wisely used this opportunity to take a stand. He’s not the first: Michael Moore famously spoke out against the Iraq war when he won the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, and Marlon Brando sent Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place when he won for The Godfather to protest the depiction of Native Americans in film.

“But Farhadi’s decision further highlights the reasons why The Salesman actually deserves to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Not only is it one of the strongest entries in this category, but it’s also the most relevant.”

Reported by The Guardian‘s Nadia Khomami on Tuesday, 2.14: “The mayor of London will join some of the leading names in British film at a free premiere screening of the Oscar-nominated The Salesman, the Iranian director of which was affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“During Academy Awards night on 26 February, Trafalgar Square will be transformed into London’s biggest open-air cinema for the first UK showing of Asghar Farhadi’s drama, hours before the Oscars are handed out in Hollywood.

“Leading names from the British film industry, including the Palme d’Or-winning director Mike Leigh, will address an expected audience of up to 10,000 people in central London. The announcement comes after actors and filmmakers including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Keira Knightley, Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam wrote to the Duke of Westminster to ask for permission to hold a screening outside the US embassy to protest against the US president’s ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.”

  • Ferret Jones

    I hope Farhadi changes his mind within the next two weeks and ends up coming to the Oscars. It’s a shame to think there might be no speech at all if the movie wins. It would be a glorious opportunity for him to give a rabble-rousing speech.

    *Cue idiotic trite comment of “That’ll show ’em”.*

  • JoeS

    And yet SALESMAN Wasn’t good enough to make H.E.’s Top 27 movies of the year behind such apparenly more vital works as SAUSAGE PARTY & WAR DOGS.

    • Charles Peligro

      The Godz have spoken.

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  • Ben Kabak

    Heightened vetting of people from war torn Muslim countries isn’t a ban.

    • Ferret Jones

      And not xenophobic. Period.

    • Charles Peligro

      What, exactly, does the “heightened vetting” consist of?

  • Bobby Peru

    Sorry, TONI ERDMANN is superior to THE SALESMAN. It’s a movie about 15 different things and expands and improves substantially on subsequent viewings.

    • You’re just an antagonist.

      • Bobby Peru

        Are you shitting me? Do you happen to know that TONI ERDMANN is nominated for an Oscar also and higher regarded? THE SALESMAN, as you said yourself, is not top-tier Farhadi. Good as it is, it is not as thematically ambitious, tonally daring or narratively challenging as TONI ERDMANN. You should know that most feel that way about this fine German film, which speaks volumes on adult parents and children, the nature of globalization, the need to wear personas in life whether in family or in business, women marginalized and demeaned despite being the smartest in the room, the adoption of a false self as required by society and how to cut through all of the shit and find your way out. And you think it’s me. Good one. You really refuse to see what others see in so many very good films, and I’m the antagonist.

    • JoeS

      That’s also the weakness of Erdmann. It flits all over the place. I liked it by the end but it’s hardly the most coherent or cohesive a nominee.