Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
The mysteries of Iranian cinema continue to perplex outsiders. How does Jafar Panahi keep making films (very good ones) while officially under arrest and enduring a 20-year ban from making movies? How did the late Abbas Kiarostami come to make films like Certified Copy and Like Someone in Love outside Iran? And what exactly is life like for Asghar Farhadi, a filmmaker who has twice won Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (A Separation and The Salesman) and who seems to be able to mount international productions with big movie stars—including his latest, Everybody Knows, with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz?
Everybody Knows opens locally this weekend, and it is a typically dense, intricately plotted work from this filmmaker. (They’re so intricate I sometimes get the feeling that Farhadi puts everything a little too perfectly in place.) In a way, it’s no surprise that Farhadi is the Iranian to win the Oscars, because his work is much more traditional than that of Kiarostami, Panahi, or Mohsen Makhmalbaf, whose films have generally been more formally tricky. When the film played at Cannes last year it seemed to land with a rather humdrum plop, but it struck me as an extremely effective (and well-acted, even in the small roles) piece. It bears some similarity to a Ross Macdonald detective novel, but without the detective (unless you count the droll ex-cop played by the subtle Jose Angel Egido): a kidnapping serves as the excuse for a deep-drill look at family damage that extends back to the previous generation.
Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.