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Crimson Gold

Posted by martinteller on May 3, 2013

As the film opens, Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin) is in the middle of a store robbery.  The victim trips an alarm, bringing down the gates and locking them both in.  Hussein shoots the man and then himself.  Then the film takes us back to learn more about Hussein and how he got to this point.  He learn that he and his friend Ali (Kamyar Sheisi) have taken up purse-snatching.  We learn that Hussein plans to marry Ali’s sister (Azita Rayeji).  We learn that he delivers pizzas.  We learn that he fought in the military, and his hulking size is due to cortisone he takes for some unnamed ailment or injury.  And we learn of the humiliations he’s suffered.

Written by Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, this movie has more overt “drama” in its first three minutes than perhaps all of their other movies combined.  Robbery, murder, suicide… these aren’t events we often see in Iranian cinema.  However, they do not take us on a wild ride of car chases and shootouts and tough guy banter.  The journey is more subdued and psychological, demonstrating the chasm between the haves and have-nots, and the slowly building rage inside Hussein as he gets condescended to by those who have had better fortune in life.

Panahi and Kiarostami have strong observational skills, and each of the episodes displays at least one or two wonderful little insights about human behavior.  Hussein’s silent sulking after being snubbed by a jeweler.  The old crime veteran trying to impress with his wisdom.  The man who tries to be casual and flippant about his opulent wealth.  Some moments are even quite comic.  A couple is arrested leaving a party… the man protests that they’re married and the cop says, “Yeah right, like married people would go out.”

But this isn’t among the best for either filmmaker.  For one thing, the events we see are ostensibly to provide some psychological rationale for Hussein’s acts in the beginning, but it doesn’t really accomplish that.  It goes part of the way there, but there’s too much of a leap.  Also, the theme of class difference is hammered home a bit too heavily, certainly in comparison to the more subtle social commentary we’ve seen from both Panahi and Kiarostami.  We know these guys are capable of finer nuance.

Nonetheless, although it doesn’t work in the grand sense, it works in smaller ways.  It’s worth seeing as an easy film to watch with some very good moments and the unusual presence of Emadeddin.  Rating: Good (72)


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