117) Beautiful City (2004) Dir: Asghar Farhadi Date Released: March 15, 2006 Date Seen: April 7, 2012 Rating: 4/5
Very powerful, almost as strong as A Separation, I think, and definitely more potent than Fireworks Wednesday. I was talking to Steve Erickson about this and am kind of stunned that Farhadi's films were released theatrically here in the US but are still unavailable on DVD. Erickson suggested that the the film's US distributors are either grossly incompetent or negligent and he may very well be right. Because hark, Beautiful City did in fact have a New York City release date!
Anyway, one of the reasons I responded as positively as I did to Beautiful City is how Farhadi thematically buttresses his film's complex story of ethical responsibility with, for want of a better way of putting this, noises. The sound of the train near Firoozeh's (Taraneh Alidoosti) home that it threatens to cancel out the sound of her baby's crying. But, like the sound of A'la (Babak Ansari) buzzing Firoozeh's doorbell, the sound of crying seems interminable. In this way, the baby's crying and the noise of the doorbell both reflect the urgency and persistent nature of Abak's dilemma.
Which in turn reminds me of something I also found striking about A Separation. All three of the Farhadi films I've seen revolve around ethical loopholes created by the rules that govern Iran's patriarchal society. They are mainly about how the religious and semi-secular dogma that governs the film's protagonists doesn't properly equip the people it's designed to protect with the means of dealing with their lives' more complicated problems.
And that in turn leads me to one of the other main things I loved about Beautiful City: how fully-realized Firoozeh is as a character. Her life isn't psychologically reduced to tics but rather elevated by various innocuous actions, like when she insists on paying bus fare for herself and her infant child or when she takes out her own cigarette and lights it after A'la refuses to give her one. Firoozeh isn't just a nominally strong female protagonist: she's the real deal. And that's really rare.