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Dastforoush (The Peddler)

Posted by martinteller on June 7, 2013

A film in three parts.  In the first, a couple is living in a ramshackle old bus, with their three children.  Their kids are all crippled and infirm from malnutrition, inbreeding, or both.  The woman gives birth to another child, and the couple tries to find a suitable place to abandon it where it will have a better life.  In the second, an obviously mentally disturbed man takes care of his near-catatonic mother.  He vacillates between doting on her and threatening to get married and leave her.  In the third, a man is selling stolen clothing for a gangster.  He’s hauled off to the boss, and fears for his life because he knows too much.  He keeps visualizing himself trying to escape and getting killed in the process.

Each short has its own style and cinematographer.  The first is the most straightforward… I’m tempted to say “neorealist” but that isn’t quite right.  The second has a Terry Gilliam vibe to it, very in-your-face and over-the-top.  The last is heavily noir-influenced, feeling like a classic Hollywood crime drama.  The three parts form the stages of birth, life and death.

All the dialogue appears to be dubbed, which results in some performances that feel sloppy.  The first segment has some particularly bad crying scenes.  And some of the visual metaphors are pretty clunky and/or tired.  But overall, this is a compelling, gritty film from Makhmalbaf, albeit one that’s very very bleak.  Moments connecting the stories indicate these social issues persist from birth until death.  Poverty, lack of adequate social services and crime all stem from man’s natural cruelty, greed and indifference.

Visually dynamic but quite depressing, it works well despite some flaws.  I wish I could have seen a print that wasn’t so washed out.  Rating: Good (76)


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