Tuesday, October 9, 2012

896. Badkonake sefid/The White Balloon (1995)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Jafar Panahi
Written By: Abbas Kiarostami
Main Cast:  Aida Mohammadkhani, Mohsen Kafili, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Anna Borkowska, Mohammad Shahani


I had mixed feelings going into this one, to be honest with you. On one hand, I was excited to have my first encounter with a piece of work written by Abbas Kiarostami. On the other hand, I read the premise of the film and it sounded a little too kid friendly and cutesy for my tastes. Either way, it was only eighty-five minutes, so if it was bad, at least it was short.

As mentioned above, the film IS only eighty-five minutes long and is told in real time. Set in Tehran, Iran on New Years Eve, the film tells the story of a little girl, Razieh (Mohammadkhani) who wants nothing more than to have the chubby goldfish, she saw in the pet store window, for the New Years celebrations.  Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there's some sort of tradition in Iran that ties goldfish to the New Year and apparently when the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins, goldfish are all the rage. Anyway, Razieh begs and pleads with her mother, but over and over again her mother tells her "no". Finally, her brother, Ali (Kalifi) hatches a scheme and cuts a deal with Razieh: If she'll give him a balloon that their uncle bought for her, then he'll talk mother into buying the goldfish. Ali's plan works and mother gives Razieh a 500-toman note to go buy the goldfish (which costs 100 tomans). Razieh is barely out the door when she happens upon a gathering crowd watching a street performer charm a snake out of a box. The street performer swindles Razieh for her 500 tomans, causing her eyes to well up with tears in fear that she's lost the money her mother entrusted her with. However, she gets the money back and continues on to the pet store. When she arrives at the pet store, however, she encounters two problems: 1) The shopkeeper has raised the prices on the extra chubby goldfish  from 100 tomans to 200 tomans and 2) she's lost her 500-toman note.

I am SHOCKED at how much I actually liked this movie. My main problem going into the film was the fact that the main characters were children, usually a big turn-off for me, but something that really had no effect on me here. Near the end of the film, I came to the realization that the script and more specifically the dialogue didn't seem to be written as if to be spoken by children, but simply written as if to make for a great movie. The plot wasn't "kiddy", nor was the dialogue and this is a movie that is quite easy for an adult to enjoy. I liked the fact that the filmmaker's kept things short, getting to the point quickly and not dawdling away their screen time. I also think the fact that the film was in real time helped to really draw me toward the story, which was ripe with fantastic storytelling.

It has come to my attention that there's a lot of symbolism and significance to the plot, the kids and the fact that they're ignored by adults throughout the entire picture and the Afghan balloon salesman at the end. However, I didn't really pick up on any significant, symbolic moments in the film and if they were in there, they were lost on me. I simply watched the great script being executed and the gripping, yet simple plot playing out.

RATING: 7.5/10  Consider that a STRONG '7.5' bordering on an '8'. I can't wait to see more from Abbas Kiarostami and this only makes me more anxious to see a film that is actually directed by him. Maybe we'll rectify that soon.


October 9, 2012  1:39pm

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