Dog Sweat skips among the loosely connected lives of six young Iranians whose desires chafe against the social and fundamentalist political restrictions of the regime. One young woman conducts an affair with a married man, while, skirting the morality police, her friend wanders the city looking for a place to sleep with her boyfriend. There is a gay guy pushed into arranged marriage and his unhappy wife, an aspiring singer who has to record on the sly. The last connects with the circumstances of Dog Sweat’s production—the film was shot clandestinely, in the lead-up to the 2009 elections, with its resultant wave of protest and suppression. It is impossible to conjecture what Dog Sweat might mean to a young Iranian who could, for the first time, have the opportunity to recognize his reality on the screen—the nearest equivalent might be the samizdat literature of Soviet Russia. Away from that context, though, this is an earnest endeavor without much emotional or aesthetic impact: The handheld camera is forever buzzing into actor’s faces to register weighty close-ups, as if to compensate with smothering seriousness for the brevity of each story line. It might be sufficient that Dog Sweat exists at all—but only if you believe intention trumps execution.
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