I saw Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation at this morning’s New York Film Festival press screening, and yes, it hit the mark again. This well-honed, deep-well family drama is now the official Iranian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and is destined to be among the five nominees…unless the foreign language committee gives it the same kind of blowoff that they did with Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days. Let’s call that highly doubtful.
(l. to. r) Sony Classics co-prez Tom Bernard, A Separation director Asghar Farhadi, Sony Classics co-prez Michael Barker at Gabriel’s — Wednesday, 9.28, 2:05 pm.
I caught most of A Separation earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival but this time I saw the first 40 minutes. The same levels of excellence prevailed — spot-on dialogue, riveting situations, characters you can’t help but believe and invest in.
Shot in Teheran, A Separation is basically about class and repression and honor among 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.
All of it adds up to a fascinating window into family and community values, not just as they exist in present-day Tehran but pretty much anywhere when you boil it all down.
NYFF co-honcho Scott Foundas (l.), Farhadi and translator during Walter Reade theatre press conference — Wednesday, 9.28, 12:35 pm.
There’s a metaphor or two in this tale of a hardscrabble lower-middle class family, particularly the hair-trigger father venting his resentments and economic frustrations upon an upper-middle class dad (and to some extent his wife, daughter and senile father) over a misunderstanding..and a lie that only comes out at the end.
As I said in Telluride, “The combination of Farhadi’s simple, direct shooting style 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.”
NYFF co-director Scott Foundas interviewed Farhadi on the stage of the Walter Reade Theatre following this morning’s showing. A few of us then traipsed over to Gabriel’s on West 60th for a luncheon with Farhadi and Sony Classics chiefs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker.
I was given some personal chat time with Farhadi, but it’s on the digicorder and I can’t easily convert to mp3 and transcribe and all that in a Starbuck’s on West 57th. Later.
Sony Classics will release A Separation on 12.30.11.