By: Christian Harding (A Toast) –
No, not that Taxi!
Not unlike certain films by Jafar Panahi’s mentor Abbas Kiarostami (most notably Taste of Cherry and Ten), Taxi seeks to be “a portrait of the Iranian capitol of Tehran” (those from the words of the filmmakers themselves) and does so by the most minimal of means, technologically speaking. The film follows a day in the life of Mr. Panahi, who is forced to drive a taxi cab in order to make ends meet during his filmmaking ban (whether this is based on fact or exaggerated for the sake of creating drama is left open ended), and during the course of this day he encounters a parade of colorful civilians entering and exiting the backseat of his cab.
As is the case in the majority of Iranian cinema from the past couple of decades, not much happens in the way of a forward moving plot or story, yet the entire film is still as watchable as anything with hundreds of times its budget, which is as much of a testament to the filmmaking prowess of Jafar Panahi as anything. Even stripped of all creative resources and left with nothing but a digital camera at his disposal, he still creates one of the most engaging and accessible (depending on who you ask) films of the decade. Unbelievable.
With the recent passing of the aforementioned Abbas Kiarostami, now would seem like as opportune a time as ever to get into Iranian cinema – and for my money, Taxi is as good a place to start as any. With literally a fraction of the budget, it does more to improve and push forward the cinematic form than the latest $200 million Hollywood effects extravaganza. It’s also a masterclass in generating empathy through film and works wonders in humanizing the working class in Iran, especially for a more Western viewing audience. This certainly one cinematic experiment not to be missed, at least not by those who claim to be true fans of the art-form.
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (2015) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: whenever Mr. Panahi gets out of the taxi cab.
Do another Shot: each time the focus shifts from the main set of cameras to the perspective from Panahi’s niece’s camera.
One more Shot: for when the Iranian cinematic standards are brought up or referenced.
Shotgun a Beer: when the line between reality and fiction begins to blur for you.