Movie directed by Jafar Panahi
The Magnificent Ambersons begins with one of the original famous continuous shots, where the editor never cuts. Obviously, this puts tremendous pressure on the cast and crew to get everything right, or at least what the director (and producer and whoever else gets a say) deems close enough. The Russian Ark carries the idea of the continuous shot to an extreme by encompassing the entire film in a single take. The Five Obstructions places a series of, well, restrictions on the making of a film. The latter two examples seem to believe that art can be made better by increasing the level of difficulty. Perhaps that is so, but the end results are as much about the process as about the end result. Much of modern art comments on the making of art, but the works often become a gimmick. I like gimmicks, but they connect to my brain and not my heart.
Taxi is most definitely dealing with innumerable obstructions, none of which were imposed by one artist on another, or the artist on his own work. Panahi drives a taxi around Tehran and the film chronicles his interactions with his passengers, who run the gamut from desperate old ladies to his young niece. An adventure or two occurs, but pretty much that covers it.
My paternal grandmother was responsible for some of the great adventures of my tiniest childhood. We lived in the Midwest in the suburbs where we rode everywhere in cars. When we visited the extended family back on the East Coast, I was occasionally left with my grandmother while my parents and older brothers pursued activities for which I was deemed ill suited. On one of those dates, my grandma decided that we should have an outing to that pantheon of childhood delights: the five and dime store. They had plastic army men and other penny delights in bins and didn’t hassle you for pawing through them. Then there was the lunch counter, where the soda pop tasted better than real life. To get there, this sainted woman hailed a cab. I had never ridden in a cab, which I announced to everyone within earshot. It was fantastic- you sat in the back and told someone where you wanted to go. Then they drove however they wanted along roads that looked different through their windows and suddenly you were at your destination. I have never gotten over that little bit of joy when I enter a cab, an experience I have enjoyed in big cities where they do drive like maniacs, but the sightseeing alone…
So, I liked just peering out the windows in Panahi’s Taxi. You can imagine what an accomplishment it was to get me to focus on the activities within the vehicle. The lingering mystery of how Panahi obtained such fantastic performances from his cast haunts the Internet surfer in me. On top of the magic of making the cab seem large as life, he accomplishes the miracle of making you forget how oppressive the regime is that forced these obstructions on him, until neither the filmmaker or the viewer is able to maintain the illusion.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 285 more to go.
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