By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
Writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award-winner for Foreign Language Film, The Salesman (2016), is a quietly powerful and human drama. It is also a masterfully restrained and dignified thriller. The rich and unapologetically flawed characterizations, performances, emotive music by Sattar Oraki and brooding snd elegant cinematography from Hossein Jafarian are all first-rate. These elements strongly call to mind the qualities of his earlier work, A Separation (2011). Similarly, Farhadi’s latest one-hundred and twenty-four minute picture equals the afore-mentioned entry in Farhadi’s cinematic catalogue in pure craftsmanship. Yet, the manner of storytelling utilized in these two movies are wholly different. A Separation unveils its plotline quickly. The Salesman unfolds in a more novel-like, gradual and competent fashion. This latter manner is more satisfying. It is also better suited for the material present in Farhadi’s recent endeavor.
This tale of a man, Emad Etesami (Shahab Hosseini), who tries to find the individual who broke into his new apartment and attacked his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), and the doubts and suspicions that arrive from such an encounter, could’ve easily become cliche. In Farhadi’s ever-competent hands, it is nothing short of exhilarating. Likewise, it is brilliantly paced and filled with nuance. There is also a timeliness and immediacy to the variety of themes Farhadi smoothly incorporates into the presentation. Such is as delicately, yet believably, treated as the sentiments burning beneath the surface of both our leads and the film itself. The dialogue is also credibly penned and delivered. Correspondingly, Farhadi’s guidance of the project is terrific. It is consistently graceful, appropriately somber and proficient. Best of all, it is stylish without ever being, as is often the case, distractingly showy.
Farhadi’s seventh feature-length production is also, as is spied in the phenomenal final act, a welcome anti-revenge statement. The Alfred Hitchcock and early Roman Polanski reminiscent touches peppered throughout, as well as the pitch perfect concluding note the endeavor unveils, only makes the proceedings all the more hypnotic. It all comes together to create a definitive masterpiece; a wonderful celluloid exploration that is as intimate as it is transcendent.
(PG-13). Contains adult themes and language.
Available now on video on demand.