1997 Iranian Wonder Is Simple as a Knife Edge Yet Endlessly Entertaining


Although this 1997 Iranian wonder—from director-Kiarostami student Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Crimson Gold)—fetched a Best Foreign Film citation from the New York Film Critics Circle, it was scantily distributed and criminally underseen. As simple as a knife edge and yet endlessly entertaining, the film remains one of the Iranian movement’s keystone works, as much for its record of the Tehranian quotidian as for its radical meta-ness. It has an outline worthy of Daffy Duck: Panahi treats us to yet another cute Iranian tyke (Mina Mohammad Khani, the barking cherub from The White Balloon) at sea in the grown-up world, when suddenly the actress abandons the film in mid-scene. The movie continues, impossibly—the suspension of ordinary movie time for the genuine tumult of real life is invigorating, disaster defying, and daringly artful. (The film’s soundtrack changes as the recalcitrant girl tries to unload her strap-on mic, but she can’t fully escape a radio-broadcast soccer match any more than she can evade Panahi’s camera.) Shades of Yoko Ono’s Rape and Samuel Beckett’s Film, but visually wiser than both, The Mirror seamlessly indicts virtually everyone and everything within its reach—patriarchy, Islamic law, film clichés, audiences, even Panahi himself. Kino’s DVD is completely supp free, but it shouldn’t matter.