The Salesman – Review

Iranian cinema is like a hand extended in greeting that does not intend to be clasped. Iranian films are made under strict guidelines. Love cannot be depicted on screen. A man and a woman may not touch each other.

Women must wear head scarves. The response of Iranian filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami, who died last year and more recently the double Oscar-winner writer-director Asghar Farhadi is to turn prohibition into a form of expression. If a man does touch a woman in a Farhadi film, the action occurs off-screen; the drama results from the aftermath. This was true of Farhadi’s 2011 breakthrough film, A Separation, in which a woman caring for the main character’s elderly father becomes injured. It is also true in his latest, The Salesman, which takes its title, rather obliquely, from Arthur Miller’s seminal 1949 play Death of a Salesman, a production of which takes place during the film.

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This is only one of two seminal texts quoted by Farhadi, the other is the less internationally well-known 1969 Iranian film, The Cow, directed by Dariush Mehrjui, which is shown to a group of male students.

Both Death of a Salesman and The Cow deal with mental disintegration; in the latter an Iranian villager, Hassan, mourns the death of his beloved animal, starts eating hay and behaving as if he was a cow. In the former, Willy Loman is troubled by his indiscretions and their effect on his family. Both protagonists meet a similar fate.

The Salesman begins with a building shaking at its foundations – as metaphorical an opening as ever contrived. Emad (Shahab Hosseini) helps carry a troubled young man out of the building as a mass evacuation takes place. Unable to move back, he and his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are offered an apartment vacated in a hurry by a troubled young woman who has something of a reputation. Whilst Emad is out, Rana opens the apartment door in anticipation of his return. When he gets home, Emad discovers that Rana has been assaulted. He plans revenge, or rather a restoration of honour, one that takes him down a dark path.

This you might think has very little to do with Arthur Miller’s play. Emad isn’t a salesman but a school teacher who at one point shows his pupils The Cow. He is well-liked but after the assault, his behaviour becomes erratic. He loses the trust of his class when he orders the confiscation of a mobile phone.

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Emad is also an amateur actor and is rehearsing a production of ‘Death of A Salesman’ playing the leading role opposite his wife, who is cast as Willy’s wife Linda. There the parallels appear to end, but Farhadi is interested in the spectre of The Woman in Miller’s play, Willy’s mistress, who effectively destroyed the family. A phantom woman – or more accurately her reputation – wrecks havoc on Emad’s home life.

The film is tightly plotted and builds to a tense climax in which you desperately want Emad to change the course of his behaviour. Although Farhadi has been criticised for following the rules, there is a scarcely coded attack on muddled thinking and the dangers of even liberal educated Iranians being swept up in ideological violence.

Not only is the film utterly gripping, but it has moments of levity too, notably when the couple look after the son of one of the cast members. Another American icon is unexpectedly mentioned – Spongebob Squarepants; the theme tune resists a Farsi equivalent.

The Salesman packs a considerable emotional punch and ranges wider than A Separation. In an ideal world, both The Salesman and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann would share the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The world isn’t ideal; even clever people don’t make the best choices and The Salesman shows that.

The Salesman is out 17th March 

Red Nose Day Actually – New Teaser

Who doesn’t love Love Actually? It’s a near perfect film, and easily one of the best rom-coms of all time, if not the best. It’s been 14 years since the film came out, and now we’re finally getting a follow up special to celebrate Red Nose Day.

This teaser is a short but sweet one paying homage arguably the film’s most iconic moment – Andrew Lincoln asks us via hand drawn signs to watch the new special on BBC1, as he once told Keira Knightley that she was perfect. Lincoln is rocking his current Walking Dead look, which is a far sight from his well groomed, baby faced appearance in the original film, but I imagine a lot of the charm of this special will be seeing how our favourite characters look now.

With appearances from Colin Firth, Martine McCutcheon, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and most importantly, Bill Nighy, Red Nose Day Actually will hopefully be a worthy follow up to the beloved rom-com.

Red Nose Day is on BB1 on March 24th

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – New Teaser

Is anybody else trembling at the fact that we’re just over a month away from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2? We’ve been spoilt rotten with the promotional material, all showcasing a film that looks too good to even exist. We have yet another trailer to add to that, which sees the crew taking a difficult flight, with Star Lord and Rocket debating who’s the better pilot. If you’ve ever needed to know that size of Drax’s fecal mater, this is essential viewing.

James Gunn did an astonishing job with the first film, which is right up there as one of the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this looks like it could pull of the impossible task of topping it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is out April 28th

Little Boxes – Brand New Trailer!

From director Rob Meyer and writer Annie J. Howell comes Little Boxes, a comedy starring Melanie Lynskey as Gina, a teacher who moves from New York to Washington State for a new job opportunity. Moving with her is her black husband Mack (Nelsan Ellis), and mixed race son Clark (Armani Jackson), and the film follows the family as they settle into this mostly white suburban town, with mixed reactions to their new interracial neighbours.

Little Boxes looks pretty good; Melanie Lynskey is always a delight to watch, and the film looks pretty funny but also with a lot to say. It’s already gotten great reviews from the Tribeca Film Festival, let’s hope it lives up to them.

Little Boxes is out later this year! 

Despicable Me 3 – Brand New Trailer

Although Illumination Entertainment’s latest offering Sing has not hit cinemas yet the studio is already whetting our appetites for their next release. The company’s most successful series Despicable Me will release its third installment next summer and its second is with us.

The trailer shows super villain turned super dad Gru up to his usual tricks but now with new wife Lucy by his side. The duo are both agents for the Anti-Villain League and set off on a new mission. Their mission brings them in contact with Balthazar Bratt, a former child star who commits crimes in the style of 80’s icons. This particular trailer shows him robbing a ship to Michael Jackson’s Bad as Gru and Lucy attempt to capture him.

As with the previous Despicable outings, and spin-off Minions, the film has an over the top and hilarious villain, Balthazar Bratt. Bratt is voiced by funny man and South Park co-creator Trey Parker who joins returning cast members Steve Carrell, Kirsten Wiig, and Russell Brand.

Despicable Me 3 is out later this year! 

Gleason – Review

by Jamie Garwood

A glowing documentary that follows the post-NFL career of New Orleans Saints specials teams player, Steve Gleason, who shortly after retirement is diagnosed with ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sceloris or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – and how his once physical body quickly detoriates and a sound literal mind slowly vanishes over a year.

The director Clay Tweel is lucky in respect that an unsung player such as Gleason becomes this incredible walking and talking document about the human spirit and how we can overcome. Tweel is the director and editor of the film, yet the narrator and producer of the content is Gleason himself; a sportsman who does not suffer from vanity or brand awareness, Gleason documented much of his life by means of videotaping or camera phone from his teenage years to college days to archiving his off-season trips overseas when experiencing adventure holidays.

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This zest for life continues for Gleason in his retirement and led to him meeting his rock, Michel, a free spirit too who becomes his wife and mother to their son, Rivers.  Their relationship is one of enlightenment and joy, and then Steve starts feeling pains in his arms and chest.

After the diagnosis, Michel becomes pregnant and they go on a two month road trip to Alaska, on this trip Steve’s body starts diminishing which hurts Michel yet Steve is eager to not have it stop him experiencing life to the full.  Steve starts a video blog for his unborn child – teaching him about relationships and family, and also a video diary of his day-to-day realisation that he is slowly going more inward as the condition takes hold.

What set Steve Gleason apart from other NFL players was his determination and drive to achieve, Gleason played linebacker at college for Washington State, however, he was considered too small for the position in the professional game yet his speed and desire to win led him to be drafted by the New Orleans Saints who utilised him as a special teams gunner, a player who specifically attacks the punter when he kicks the ball away to attempt a turnover or block to regain possession for the offence.

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In the annals of the Saints franchise, Gleason has a play for which he is synonymous – the blocked punt of the Atlanta Falcons’ punter in the first few minutes of the first game back at the New Orleans Superdome following the horror of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The game was September 25th 2006, and Gleason’s play became christened ‘The Rebirth’ and helped galvanised a city and fanbase that desperately needed something to cheer about.  Much is made about the way Gleason played, with a hunger and a controlled anger, coming from a broken home his Dad alludes to the fact that the field of play allowed Steve to be cathartic and let out his anger.

Gleason’s Dad also says maybe the illness stems from the way Steve played – so hard, so fast – yet ALS is apparent in adults not on the physical level of Gleason and there is no discussion on the CTE discussion so prevalent in the NFL currently.

Nonetheless, the film is a moving document on the treatment of ALS and the fight Gleason shows is paramount to him overcoming his illness as best he can becoming more of an inspiration in retirement than he did when playing – his foundation Team Gleason raises money to help similar ALS sufferers to go on trips with family and he went to Congress to pass the Gleason Act meaning the technology to help ALS sufferers talk via computers be available on Medicare; a legacy perhaps far more reaching than a blocked punt. The punt was a second was a moment; the Act will live on and help far more people.

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The film takes time to show the tragedy of the illness on the Gleason family, how Michel has to cope with a newborn child and an ill husband; the living grief she suffers as a chasm slowly comes between their loving relationship yet she is able to grow as an artist and be extrovert in that respect whilst supporting Steve.

There is also a telling sub-text on the dichotomy and difficulty of father-son relationships; how Steve’s with his own father has altered over time due a difference of opinion on faith and religion, yet they have slowly grown closely together due to the illness. This is juxtaposed with the closeness Steve – who will be unable to touch and talk to his new son – and how he endeavours to create a vital relationship by way of his video diary and creating a bond by any means.  Gleason due to his intellect also becomes an insightful interviewer such as the moment he asks Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam, Gleason’s favourite band and huge supporters of his cause) about his own absent father bringing the rock and roll star to tears himself.

A complex subject is given a touching and emotional documentary which at times will have you tearing up, yet Gleason remains an uplifting film about the overcoming of obstacles in your life, how only you yourself can create the legacy you want to leave behind and how debilitating illness does not necessary mean the end of the road.  This is as much a film about patience and how it pays off if you have it.

Gleason is released in cinemas on Friday 17th March