Tehran Taboo review – sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in Iran | World cinema

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“Saying ‘no’ is more important than breathing in Tehran,” one character in this impressive debut feature by writer-director Ali Soozandeh advises another who has gotten in trouble through a failure to abstain. In this criss-crossing, multi-stranded narrative, various denizens of Iran’s capital city are seen bending, fracturing and sometimes decisively shattering the strict laws of the land – particularly where it comes to sex, drugs and general submission to the patriarchy. Although, in the UK, the film only merits a 15 rating, in Iran the subject matter is shocking stuff, the kind of material that could land a film-maker and actors in jail.

Soozandeh has cleverly worked around the problem not just by living abroad but through the unusual way the film is made: the movie is technically a work of animation. Like Waltz With Bashir or A Scanner Darkly, it’s made with a contemporary, computer-assisted version of what was once called rotoscoping, whereby filmed material is traced over to produce a drawn image that matches the live-action frame for frame. The result offers deniability to the participating actors. But more importantly, it creates a remarkable visual texture, hyper-realistic in terms of movement and expression but also stylised with simplified fields of colour, like a moving version of that iconic, stencil-style campaign poster for Obama.

Prostitute Pari (Elmira Rafizadeh) is first met performing fellatio on a taxi driver while her mute six-year-old son Elias sits in the back seat, holding the money. She becomes a judge’s kept woman and she and the boy are set up in an apartment building where Pari befriends unhappy young wife Sara (Zahra Amir Ebrahimi), who longs to work but can’t unless she has her straight-laced husband’s permission. And then there’s Babak (Arash Marandi), a young musician whose inebriated tryst in a nightclub with Donya (Negar Mona Alizadeh) leaves them searching for ways to disguise her lost virginity with tat bought in the local bazaar. (“It’s Chinese!” the hawker boasts proudly.) The script crackles with such bleak little jokes like this, relieving the tension in a work that could otherwise prove overwhelmingly depressing and borderline melodramatic.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Tehran Taboo review – sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in Iran | World cinema

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