Movie of the Week: Tehran Taboo (dir: Ali Soozandeh, 2017)

A friend suggested recently that I revive my blog, though I seem to notice that my last 20 posts all say something to the effect of reviving my blog… which sort of begs the question of whether this endless revival contradicts the idea that it was ever dead.

Regardless, I used to have a feature called “Movie of the Week” where I would write some sentences about some film that I found particularly impressive. I still watch an inordinate amount of movies, so much so, that the streaming services are almost dead to me; there’s not much left to watch that I haven’t seen that at least *looks* interesting. Open to suggestions though!

MUBI, however, is an endless trove of cinematic gems, adding and taking away films from its catalogue almost daily. Michigan Theater members got three months free during the Covid-19 lockdown, which has been a real life saver right now. So far, I have caught up on some recent Japanese productions that I missed (that I won’t even mention since it just isn’t polite to speak ill of the dead), got to see the Ryuichi Sakamoto doc “Coda” from 2017 (which was superb) and a number of oddball Russian productions that I would have missed otherwise (Beanpole from 2019 is highly recommended).

A standout, however, was “Tehran Taboo,” a German-Austrian production by Iranian born German director Ali Soozandeh. Tehran Taboo is the story of three women and one man, navigating the complex dissonance between strict rules on sex and economic, human and social realities.

Shot in Germany and Austria using Persian speaking actors, the film is rotoscoped. That is, the visuals are traced over live actors, in the same vein as Bakshi’s 1978 production of Lord of the Rings. Rotoscoping for Tehran Taboo availed the director of having to film sensitive material in Iran. He could shoot in Germany and then simply draw over the action to create settings that at least “look” like Iran without fear of having the religious police (who are central to the film) arrest everyone involved. Aside from the practical issues the film just looks great and the animated approach brings out the immediacy of the subject matter.

Alrighty, then, there’s my blog post. I win.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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