Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (2015)

JAFAR PANAHI

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

Original title:  Taxi Tehran

Alternate title:  Taxi

Iran, 2015.  Jafar Panahi Film Productions.  Screenplay by Jafar Panahi.  Cinematography by Jafar Panahi.  Produced by Jafar Panahi.  Film Editing by Jafar Panahi.  Berlin Film Festival 2015.  Toronto International Film Festival 2015.

Forbidden by the Iranian government to make films since 2010, master filmmaker Jafar Panahi has actually produced three experimental features since the pronouncement was made, this one a masterpiece of both political expression and dramatic enjoyment.  Setting up cameras in a taxi cab, Panahi winds his way through Tehran picking up passengers and witnessing their lives in the few minutes they spend with him:  a roadside victim of a motorcycle accident, two women looking to get to Ali’s Spring by noon (for the most hilarious reasons), a DVD bootlegger who believes that a famous filmmaker will make the perfect sidekick for his business, a generous and kind lawyer who metes out roses with her firm and unwavering support, and the director’s own adorable niece, an aspiring filmmaker with more than a handful of opinions of her own (all of which succumb to the desire for a banana split).  The action is actually for the most part staged, as Panahi originally interviewed real passengers who then begged him to turn off his camera for fear of reprisals from the regime.  What he ends up with is only obviously fictional for the convenience of the way the plots merge into each other; the acting is practically invisible and the situations all play out very naturally within the confines of the car.  The fact that Panahi is as terrible a cab driver as he is superb a director only makes the experience that much richer, a frequently funny movie whose good-natured humour never takes away from the impact of the situations that it is illustrating.

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