Northwestern Press

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Movie Review: ‘The Salesman’

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 by The Press in Focus

“The Salesman,” the 2017 Foreign Language Film Oscar recipient, is a must-see.

The gripping, powerful drama gives you a view of life in Tehran, Iran. Guess what? Despite the foreign language, and once you get accustomed to the English subtitles, “The Salesman” seems not too unlike a domestic drama and suspense thriller that might take place in the United States.

“Forushande” (“The Salesman”) tells the story of husband and wife, Emad (Shahab Hosseini, 2016 Cannes Film Festival Actor recipient, “The Salesman”), a school teacher, and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), who are starring opposite each other as Willy Loman and Linda, respectively, in a stage production of playwright Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” (1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play).

When the couple’s apartment building is damaged by adjacent construction and made unsafe for human habitation, “Death of a Salesman” director, Babak (Babak Karimi), offers to rent them a recently-vacated apartment he owns. After the couple moves in, an unspeakable tragedy occurs to the wife, Rana, which threatens to run over them with the wheels of emotion following the alleged actions of the intruder. Finding the alleged perpetrator gives traction to the plot.

Director Asghar Farhadi (Oscar director winner, original screenplay nominee, “A Separation,” 2011), who wrote the screenplay for “The Salesman” (2016 Cannes Film Festival screenplay recipient), films in a documentary-style, with little accommodation for stylish flourishes. The camera is kept in close on his subjects. Little is seen of the surroundings, so that when you do glimpse a portion of the Tehran skyline, a busy street intersection or the interior of a student classroom, apartment building, theater stage and green room, the views almost seem a revelation.

“The Salesman” deals frankly with post traumatic assault syndrome, the victimization of women, the role (or lack thereof) for women in Iran, patriarchal hypocrisy in Iran and cultural censorship in Iran. The film does so forthrightly and with little rancor.

One senses in the final scenes of Emad and Rana what has been lost as their joy of matrimony is trampled to dust by the harsh realities of their existence.

In ways, Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman,” becomes metaphor for the death of a marriage. Not unlike Miller’s classic, “The Salesman” is a tone poem of misunderstanding, an inability to connect and of unspeakable grief.

“The Salesman” is enigmatic in its conclusion, in the outcome for Emad and Rana. But there’s no doubting its power for the movie-goer. Here’s a film that will start random discussions among strangers afterward (as the film did after I saw it). It is that good.

“The Salesman” doesn’t flinch, nor look way from a story that could have well happened, in the United States or any nation. Nor should we look away.

“The Salesman,”MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image; Genre: Drama, Thriller; Run time: 2 hrs., 5 mins.; distributed by Amazon Studios.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“The Salesman” was filmed in Tehran, Iran. Director Asghar Farhadi declined to attend the Feb. 26 Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood even if he would have been granted an exception to President Donald Trump’s executive order visa ban for citizens from Iran and several predominantly Muslim countries. Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari read Farhadi’s acceptance speech at the Oscars.

Box Office,March 10, “Kong: Skull Island” climbed to the top of the box-office rock, opening at No. 1 with $61 million, de-clawing the one-week No. 1 run of “Logan,” still formidable at No. 2 with $38.1 million, $152.9 million, two weeks, with “Get Out” still in the game at No. 3 with $20.7 million, $110.7 million, three weeks (on a $4.5-million budget);

4. “The Shack,” $10 million, $32.2 million, two weeks; 5. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $7.6 million, $158.8 million, five weeks; 6. “Before I Fall,” $3 million, $8.9 million, two weeks; 7 “Hidden Figures” (three Oscar nominations), $2.8 million; $162.9 million, 12 weeks; 8. “John Wick: Chapter 2,” $2.7 million, $87.4 million, five weeks; 9. “La La Land” (six Oscars: actress, Emma Stone; directing, Damien Chazelle; score, Justin Hurwitz; song, “City of Stars”; cinematography, production design), $1.8 million, $148.4 million, 14 weeks; 10. “Fifty Shades Darker,” $1.7 million, $112.9 million, five weeks.

Unreel,March 17:

“Beauty and the Beast,”PG: Bill Condon directs Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Luke Evans and Ewan McGregor in the live-action musical version of the hit Disney animated film about a young woman and her unlikely love interest.

“T2 Trainspotting,”R: Danny Boyle is back to direct his 1996 breakthrough film. The boys are back in town, too, older and presumably, one would hope wiser, including Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, in the drama. After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton reunites in Scotland with the old gang: Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie. Talk about “Lust for Life.”

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes