Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Absolute Rest

Sometimes you gotta go in blind. And if, like us, you're considering the case of an enterprising Persian distributor, traveling the country looking for outlets for his movies, you're almost always going in blind.

In this case, the movie was called Absolute Rest, and I still have no idea why, unless it is meant to refer to death. But it was (yet another) excellent rebuttal to the notion that low budget movies have to be bad.  (A notion, I confess, that nobody is forwarding, but leaps unbidden into my mind when I consider Sharknado.)

The story concerns Samira, a 30ish mother who returns to Tehran after, I think, a sort of self-imposed exile in her hometown, following trouble with her truculent, ne'er-do-well husband. No spoilers but the opening sequence has her being hit by a car in that manner that suggests finality, and the entire movie is a build-up to that point.

We see Samira arrive at the airport, we see her fight with her husband (Hamed?) who takes their child and runs off to her sister's. (He promptly abandons the child there and we actually never see him again.) A recurring theme of this movie is people asking why she came back, knowing it would infuriate him, and her retorting that Tehran is probably big enough for the two of them. (Tehran has a population of over 8 million, about the size and density of New York City.) However, the reason she came back it seems, is that Hamed spread horrible lies about her in her home village, and she couldn't escape that, whereas his powers to ruin her reputation would be greatly limited in Tehran.

However, when you know all the same people, and a person is dedicated to destroying you, they can do a pretty good job. She first finds a crappy, smelly apartment and enlists a friend (Saber?) to help her clean it and fix it up.

This is culturally kind of interesting, because there's an old lady living there already, and the two of them do their repairs and cleaning up while she's still living there, and with tremendous respect for her. There's no eviction or any actual talk of what they'll do when the time comes.

Thing is, though, Saber is also Hamed's friend. Saber lets Hamed crash with him in his room, which is actually at his menial job—the sort of job that Hamed derides, while leeching off Saber.

Meanwhile, Davoud and Rezvan (real life husband and wife Reza Attaran and Farideh Farimarzi) have been graciously holding her stuff from before she moved and agree to let her crash at their place for a while. Rezvan and Samira are long-time friends, it seems.

Rezvan is an archetypal nagging wife, looking for some attention from Davoud, who is more interested in Samira. And this is another kind of interesting theme running throughout the movie: Everyone wants Samira, but nobody actually makes any moves, and Samira has other things on her mind, like becoming self-sufficient.

Davoud makes a living installing illegal satellite dishes and hatches a plan with Samira to buy a bunch of black market receivers to box up as genuine Chinese receivers and resell at a nice profit. Yes, this is where Iran is as a nation: It bootlegs Chinese electronics. I was really curious as to where these worse-than-Chinese electronics were coming from, and I think it's...Iran.

She goes to yet another (male) friend, a...uh...toilet magnate who gives her a loan. And also avers how he has an apartment she can stay in rent free. This is kind of interesting, too: She simply demurs, taking the loan and declining the apartment, but without either of them saying a word as to the implications.

And so she goes along, trying to make her way, but bringing a fair amount of disruption with her, all of which is amplified by the truly worthless Hamed, who sets about whispering in Rezvan's ear, vandalizing stuff, and possibly ratting out Samira and Davoud to the cops.

It's nicely done, if low key. The characters are strongly drawn and well acted. The story is well written, but I wasn't sure about the end. Was a message meant? Was no-message meant? Is this the work of Iranian censors?

Back in the days of the Hays office, American filmmakers followed some tropes that were, for lack of a better word: odd. A fallen man would be shamed, but a fallen woman would find death in some form, for example. In some cases, fallen might mean "fell in love out of her race", too. Looking at some of this stuff makes you wonder, if you don't know the back story.

So maybe that was what was going on here. Nonetheless, it was a fine film done on a very low budget, and (going back to Sharknado, sorry) it exudes caring.

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