Our film group discussed the Oscar winning film, The Salesman. This is such a great film. If the Academy didn't separate nominations into English language films (Best Picture) and Best Foreign Language Films, this one would have been undeniably worthy of standing alongside the other Best Picture nominees. One group member who is politically very conservative, made a crack about limiting the group to one Iranian film per year, but he very much liked the movie. For those who dislike subtitles, learn Persian. Just kidding. Sometimes subtitles are difficult to read, but not in this film.
The Salesman has everything a great film should have: deep character development, a great story, dramatic tension, a powerful climax and a deft exploration of universal themes. Minute one of the film, shows a bed on a stage on the theater set of Death of A Salesman. Minute two will grab you by the lapels and won't let go for the next 10 minutes. The bed announces that this film will look at what takes place in the hidden, darker recesses of marriage and family life. The riveting scene that follows shows the evacuation of an apartment building on the verge of collapse because a construction digger has been digging too close to the building's foundation, which is a visual metaphor for digging below the surface of foundational family and marital relationships. The link between bedrooms and disruptive family secrets is further emphasized when the protagonist couple returned to their condemned apartment building to retrieve their belongs. The wife is about to step into the bedroom when the husband warns that the room is unsafe. The wife glances at a wall over the bed where there are a number of deep cracks in the wall.
The Salesman also provides a glimpse into Iranian life, which is different from our lives in certain respects, but surprisingly similar in other ways. Someone said that the high school classroom scenes depicted in the The Salesman showed an atmosphere that was more "liberal" than what is typical for American schools. At the same time, censorship of reading materials in Iranian schools can be very heavy-handed and disheartening for a passionate teacher who loves literature and the arts.
The Salesman leans on Greek tragedy and Arthur Miller's Death of A Salesman, so having familiarity with either is helpful, but far from necessary. This is also a film that is satisfying in its own right, but if you can gather few smart people to discuss it, you'll appreciate it even more. Our group leader—a film fanatic who teaches at U of C—rated it among the 10 best films he's ever seen. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but that's not an unreasonable opinion.
A couple of group members saw another film by the director of The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi. A Separation, which is also critically acclaimed, stars the same lead actors who gave great performances in The Salesman. We haven't seen it yet, but we're planning a viewing with our other film group, which is an informal gathering (no participation fee) with close friends.
I've already seen The Salesman twice and, honestly, I could watch it again and probably will when it's released on Amazon Prime this summer. Amazon Studios was the distributor of this film, and Amazon Studios was the producer or distributor of many good films released this year. It seems like Amazon Studios is named in the opening credits of every other movie I've seen recently. Jeff Bezos is sinking tons of money into the film industry, and so far I like what I've seen. Amazon is showing and making the kind of pictures that the rest of big Hollywood has ignored to the detriment of those of us who enjoy movies that are more than XD and 3D extravaganzas.