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Beautiful City (Unrated)

Release Date: March 15th , 2006 (Film Forum) by Sheherazad Media International. The Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Ansari, Faramarz Charibian, Hossein Farzi-Zadeh, Ahu Kheradmand.
Directed by Asghar Farhadi.
In Farsi with Subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: To prevent Akbar (Farzi-Zadeh) from being executed in prison for murder, his sister Firoozeh (Alidoosti) and Ala (Ansari), his friend, seek clemency from the victim’s father.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Not much goes on throughout Beautiful City , yet it still manages to be absorbing. Most of the action either takes place off-screen or is just referenced to. For instance, there’s no scene showing Akbar’s murder of his girlfriend. Firoozeh gets physically abused by her own boyfriend off-screen. Writer/director Asghar Farhadi refuses to include these very dramatic moments in favor of more subdued scenes. Ala has a clear mission to save Akbar’s life along with the help of Firoozeh. The only suspense is whether or not they can convince the victim’s father to spare Akbar’s life, which is enough to keep you mildly engaged. Akbar and Firoozah gradually fall in love, but they have very few scenes together to show any real chemistry. The plot gets slightly more complicated when the victim’s father must pay “blood money”: the difference between the cost of his daughter and that of Akbar, who is worth twice as much because he’s a male. Each actor gives a believable performance, particularly Taraneh Alidoosti who was last seen in I’m Taraneh, 15 . A slow pace along with very little camera movements or musical score suggest the kind of stark realism found in cinéma vérité, which initially feel boring. Once you get used to the slow pace and directing style, it’s easy to feel refreshed simply by the lack of contrived, over-the-top scenes—especially by the true-to-life, un-Hollywood ending.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Beautiful City raising interesting questions to think about without really exploring their answers. For example, regarding the concept of “blood money”, how can anyone give a monetary value for a human being? It sounds very much like an unethical way of playing God. In other parts of the world, like in Iran, the justice system works differently as shown in this film. Director Asghar Farhadi doesn’t take a strong stance on attacking the Islamic judicial system, yet he does show that it can be unfair and very sexist. We should consider ourselves lucky to live in a civilized country where justice is sought through a court system—everyone has the right for a fair trial and is innocent unless proven guilty.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None, as long as you have tolerance for minimal plot.


IN A NUTSHELL: Superbly-directed, absorbing and thought-provoking!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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