In this debut feature written and directed by Iranian born Babak Jalali, “Frontier Blues” features four, intertwined stories all set in Iran’s northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs. Featuring non-professional actors from the northern region of Iran, Jalali’s film looks at fragments of the everyday existence of a varied collection of characters from the region.
2009 – Certificate: 12 – Iranian Film
Rating Details: One use of strong language and a moderate sex reference
7.0 out of 10
Although I frequently do nothing at work for weeks at a time (except procrastinate), I occasionally have to do something. This is normally something which I can’t delegate downwards or pass the buck upwards. Yesterday was one of those days. I had to complete a funding application. I’d known it’d need doing for the last month or so, but it was only yesterday that I did much about it, as it had a 17:00 deadline. I’d had a quick look at it the day before and decided that it wasn’t a lot of work; why I believe myself when I think something like that I’ll never know, but somehow I always do. So yesterday I found myself having to do some real work for a change. Now, there are people who actually do this sort of thing as their full time job and some of them actually seem to enjoy it. I lack the intelligence, focus and strength of character to be like that. I see it as a necessary evil that allows me to lead the decadent lifestyle that I do. No one should be forced to write funding applications; it’s only one step up from begging in the street. Like writing poetry or songs, funding bids come from the heart; they’re not something that can be forced out of someone. In my case they’re dragged screaming and kicking from my very soul, before being nakedly spread-eagled across the page for all to gawp at, pointing and laughing as they do so, as if I was exposing a very private part of me, which in a way I am. Being forced to write a funding bid is like being forced to love someone. Of course I enjoy getting that follow up letter that contains the word “congratulations”, but most of the time they just say “I’m sorry to inform you”. Writing funding bids is like asking someone out, and I’m crap at that too. (You work yourself up for ages to do it and then it all comes out wrong.) I’m just not thick skinned enough to take the rejection and it sends me into a subconscious mire of desolation and self-loathing. I still haven’t got over asking Debbie Warby out in 1977 and getting turned down; I only wanted to go and see “Star Wars” too. I never did see it at the cinema; no wonder I prefer “Star Trek”. So anyway, I got it done yesterday and what a beautiful creation it was; really, it should’ve been on display in a gallery, not stuffed into a brown envelope. After a 100mph death-defying drive, (it wasn’t far to go and I had an hour or so to get there, but I’d drunk far too much coffee), I got to hand it in before the deadline. I got a call about two hours later from the fund’s administrator, asking if I could e-mail her a copy, as she was having to scan all the applications and she’d been “inundated” with them and would be at work for hours doing them, so it would save her time. Inundated. Inundated! It’s like asking girls out again; a futile exercise that ends in humiliation and a feeling of abject failure. A woman gets asked out in this movie; that ends in abject failure too.
So this was a chance to watch my entire collection of Iranian films… all one of them. Not sure what I was expecting really, probably just some propaganda to do with nuclear bombs, oppressed women who choose to wear a burqa and jihadist wars. There isn’t anything else there is there, other than sand and oil… and camels probably? Well, that’s what it says in the papers, so it must be true. Okay, I don’t really believe any of that nonsense, but I was surprised by what I did see. In fact it took me a while to get over my preconceptions and begin to appreciate what this film actually was, which made me feel a bit guilty; I really was under the impression that it would be sort of worthy, but a bit amateurish and boring. In fact this is a black comedy, which pokes fun at itself and Iran’s own, internal preconceptions about itself. It’s true to say that not a lot happens for most of the film and there aren’t a great many spaceships, aliens or explosions in it. It’s simply a snapshot of the lives of four people that to some extent are interconnected. At first I did find it a bit boring, but when I finally worked out what I was watching it got a lot more interesting. It was almost as if I felt guilty about finding the discomfort of the characters funny, which is a bit sad really. The picture quality isn’t always the best, which is a bit frustrating as the scenery is really worth seeing. It’s also quite slow and nothing happens quickly; and in a cultural way there are a few things that just don’t sit comfortably for many westerners too. However, the majority of it is good stuff and I really rather enjoyed it.
The music used in the film is sparse and haunting. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own but as a soundtrack it’s great and adds to the atmosphere a lot. We also get treated to a bit of what sounds like Marlene Dietrich, but I could be wrong.
Movie Weather Forecast. I’ve still not started doing this properly, but it was dry and mostly sunny, with some blustery wind at times.
For stupid people like me, the trailer makes the tone of the film a bit clearer.
Recommend for wrestlers, photographers and anyone who works on a chicken farm.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I like tea. I drink a lot of tea. I like coffee but I like tea more. In this film the characters drink tea. They drink a lot of tea. In fact I suspect that it’s a subtle joke about how much tea people in Iran do drink. I thought all they did there was build nuclear bombs and hate on the West, but actually they drink a lot of tea and have a sense of humour that I can relate to. That’s cool, because most of the people I actually know don’t understand it. I’m a Brit so tea is automatically badass and badass in a way coffee will never be. In fact it’s the most badass of drinks; except perhaps cider.
Hong Kong, 1962. Chow (Tony Leung – “Happy Together”, “Hard Boiled”) is a junior newspaper editor with an elusive wife. His new neighbour, Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung – “Days of Being Wild”, “Irma Vep”), is a secretary whose husband seems to spend all his time on business trips. They become friends, making the lonely evenings more bearable. As their relationship develops they make a discovery that changes their lives forever… In this sumptuous exploration of desire, internationally acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai (“Chungking Express”, “Happy Together”, “Fallen Angels”) creates a world of sensuality and longing that will leave you breathless. “In the Mood For Love” has seduced audiences and critics alike, winning awards at Cannes 2000 for best actor, cinematography and editing.
2000 – Certificate: PG – Hong Kong Film
Rating Details: Mild sex references and language
7.0 out of 10
I’ve recently developed a new interest; a new kind of fetish if you like. I’ve discovered port. Not the type with boats and things, but the one that’s like red wine on steroids. Cockburns Special Reserve Port is meant to be vegan and is well structured, with rich, ripe fruit and gentle spicy tannins. It has a clean aroma, showing maturity and finesse, with a hint of dried plums. Off dry to medium sweet, it has a rich, mellow texture and a smooth tannin structure, with a long, satisfying finish. (Obviously I got that lot from the Internet; I don’t really know anything about port, other than it’s red and I like how it tastes.) Apparently the classic way to serve Special Reserve is with aged Stilton cheese after dinner; or with roasted almonds or walnuts and squares of rich, dark chocolate, for a simple but elegant dessert. Personally I just drink it on its own out of the wrong shaped glass. Still, I like to think I’m a higher class sort of drunk. You won’t find me in the gutter with some cans of Asda lager in the remains of a six-pack ring, or a smashed bottle of Buckfast. Port is a bit of a throwback to a more civilized time now past; so’s this film.
When I was young I used to sit at home on a Saturday afternoon with my mum, watching old, black and white films on BBC2. In those days we only had three TV channels to pick from and no Internet or home videos; life was hard. Nowadays I can pick from about 200 TV channels and a billion videos on the Internet, or select a DVD or Blu-ray disc to watch. No wonder more people suffer from mental health difficulties these days. Those old films were inevitably made in the 50s and focused on some couple in America with ‘marital difficulties’. They were pretty boring. I’d much rather have watched the wrestling on ITV’s “World of Sport” and seen ‘bad-guy’ Mick McManus trashing another opponent illegally when the ref’s back was turned, but you only had one TV in those days. (Sadly Mick died earlier this year.) Watching “In the Mood For Love” took me straight back to those days; (the films that is, not the wrestling). It’s in colour and set in Hong Kong in the first part of the 60s, but other than that… When I was watching it I was trying to work out why I’d bought it, as it’s not the sort of movie I’d normally watch, but by the end it made perfect sense. It’s got the sort of plot Thomas Hardy could easily have written, (if he’d been able to get away with writing about marital affairs). Chow Mo-wan certainly has something in common with Jude Fawley. The first 15 minutes or so are a real muddle to follow, but then it settles down. It’s also currently the 247th most highly rated film on IMDB, so I guess that means it’s pretty special. Whatever. But overall it’s worth watching, despite the lack of explosions, spaceships and perverted sex.
The music plays a big part in making this movie work, from the use of a number of songs by Nat King Cole, through to the regular musical montages (using the same bit of hypnotic waltz music) that’s used to drive parts of the story along. Not a soundtrack I’d want to listen to on its own, but great in the context of the film.
Recommended for newspaper editors, PAs and lonely husbands and wives.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? It seems you have to be a bit of a bastard to get anywhere in life these days. Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan were just too nice. This makes them badass, but unfortunately it also makes them total losers. What a shame.