By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
One of the best moments of an otherwise bizarre Oscar ceremony was Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman taking Best Foreign Language Film and his beautiful, incisive in absentia speech that ranks among the most impactful political statements ever made at an event known for them.
Infamous for them, even.
Per Farhadi’s style, The Salesman is not so grandiose an affair, following a harrowing incident in the lives of a stage-acting married couple, Emad (Shahab Hosseini- A Separation) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti- About Elly). When Rana is assaulted in their new, temporary apartment, Emad becomes consumed with finding and confronting the culprit. As always, life proves thornier than that revenge flick setup usually suggests.
The Salesman is Farhadi’s most overtly action or violence-oriented film, which, of course, isn’t terribly action or violence-oriented, but just enough to get those dramatic wheels turning. Where a Hollywood hero would go and get their six-shooter to pursue the villain what done wronged their woman, Farhadi uses Emad and Rana’s acting profession to show the roles we assume and the frames we put on real-life scenarios.
I’m a badass.
Emad clearly thinks he’s that hero, manhood maligned, as he sets off to discover the perpetrator while his wife, petrified to be alone, sits alone as he does his manly duty. Farhadi then does what he does, ratcheting up the tension unbearably and blurring the lines of our perception, of those acting roles we all assume, forcing us to look past them and see the humans play-acting our way through life in an effort to make sense of it all, make it fit a pattern, make it slow down and simplify. What he and his uniformly excellent cast reveal, as he has often in his oeuvre, is the scared and confused humans underlying even the toughest or most righteously angered facades.
But… aren’t I a badass?
One more tip of the glass to Farhadi’s understated but impressive style. His framing in particular has become truly interesting, capturing the gaze and underlining the themes in a subtle manner that demonstrates how carefully considered ever element of his productions are.
There is a perception this is lesser Farhadi, a distinction that may be laughable for a dramatist operating at this high a register, but admittedly The Salesman feels a little less interested in sharing focus between his cast of characters to the degree some of his previous highs have. This results in particularly the supporting female characters being just a little less rounded than usual.
The Salesman continues to demonstrate Asghar Farhadi’s talents as the world’s foremost dramatist with a slight, intriguing genre angle this time around.
The Salesman (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each scene of practicing or performing Death of a Salesman
Take a Drink: whenever the husband chooses machismo over his wife’s needs or wants
Take a Drink: for any discussion of vehicles
Take a Drink: kitty!
Do a Shot: for attacks, including heart