Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine Movie Review

0
0
Subscribe To:
The story is that of Bahman Farjami, an Iranian director in advanced middle age who hasn't made a movie since the revolution of 1979, who was widowed five years ago, and who himself has suffered a pair of heart attacks and watched a number of his friends from his filmmaking days die. Farjami hasn't worked because the Iranian censors have denied him a permit, but at the beginning of 2000's Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine he's obtained permission to make a documentary for Japanese television about funeral rites in Iran. He's buoyed, if still depressed - the best years of his life have been squandered by the revolution, his mother is terminally ill, his children have moved abroad - and in a spirit of mixed hopefulness he goes about gathering together his colleagues from the '70s. What he finds is more sickness and sorrow; it seems that death is near at hand for all of his old group, himself included, and what started as a documentary about no one's death in particular begins to turn into the story of his own.

Those familiar with new Iranian cinema, which tends often to be semi-documentary in form, will be unsurprised to learn that Farjami is played by Smell of Camphor's actual director, Bahman Farmanara, and that the film echoes details of his own circumstances. Farmanara exhibits a particular animosity toward Iranian censorship - a completely justified position, obviously - and in Smell of Camphor it seems as if he's set out to break as many of these prohibitions as possible: Our hero gives a ride to a woman unknown to him, he takes a stab at Iranian health care, some French is heard (foreign words being forbidden in Iranian film), there's upbeat music (likewise forbidden), our hero prefers solitude (unhealthy and forbidden), a bearded character is portrayed unfavorably, the police are referred to disparagingly, and so forth. (I am not, by the way, making any of these restrictions up, and it's worth noting that recent crackdowns by conservative Iranian factions within the state-run film industry would make this film impossible to produce today, only four years later.) Farmanara himself went without work since directing 1979's Tall Shadows in the Wind. Watching his first-person indictment of the system that robbed him of his livelihood ("I do not fear death," he says at one point, "I fear a futile life."), your heart bleeds for him.

Smell of Camphor is being marketed as something of a black comedy, and while it does include some strange material (our hero is attacked in a swimming pool by dwarves, for instance, and there's a cleric who describes burial procedures that include speaking the name of the deceased three times to his remains before shaking his head with your hands), its tone is one of distress. Farjami is marked by loss, and his encounters tend quickly to transform into meditations on mortality, aging, regret, and oppression. The laughs are rare. And scenes are sometimes wrung for pathos too plainly, as when Farjami reads Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fable of Silence" to his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother, or when he explains that self-flagellation is used to commemorate saints, but not artists. His use of symbol, as in the title syzygy, can be likewise uncertain.

Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine is the most direct attack of artistic oppression in Iran to have yet reached the screen, and I salute Farmanara for his commitment to giving the censors' victims a voice. His artistic vision, on the other hand, is hit-or-miss and his material hangs together rather slackly. At one point near the film's end, the director is addressed by, I believe, a duck, who warns him of his imminent demise, and the picture takes a Fellini-esque turn in which Farjami observes his own funeral in surreal detail. The sequence itself is winning but, like the cleric's advice about funerary rites, several landscape shots, and intertitles dividing the film into chapters, it stands out from the core material about this artist's day-to-day life in Iran somewhat jarringly. The effect is less that of a complete vision than a not-quite-successful collage.

Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, newly available on DVD, remains a worthwhile stop for those interested in the still-vital Iranian film culture, and as a warning about the dangers of joining church and state it's bracing.

Aka Booye kafoor, atre yas.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

0
0
Subscribe To:

Comments

Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2000

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

Metallica To Headline Reading And Leeds 2015

The first announcement has been made as to who will be playing the Reading and Leeds...

Metallica To Headline Reading And Leeds 2015

Creed Singer Scott Stapp Reveals Personal Crisis In Video

Scott Stapp, the lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Creed...

Creed Singer Scott Stapp Reveals Personal Crisis In Video

Joni Mitchell Reveals She Rejected Taylor Swift To Play Her In A Movie

News has emerged that Taylor Swift was shot down for a role playing singer Joni...

Joni Mitchell Reveals She Rejected Taylor Swift To Play Her In A Movie

Luke Bryan Doesn't Take His 11 Number 1s For Granted

Luke Bryan is an American country singer-songwriter who has had phenomenal success, chalking...

Luke Bryan Doesn't Take His 11 Number 1s For Granted

Katy Perry Was Huge Inspiration For Becky G On Tour

Becky G may be a 17-year-old star in her own right having shot herself to...

Katy Perry Was Huge Inspiration For Becky G On Tour

'Game of Thrones' Fans Told To "Follow The Three Eyed Raven" With New Teaser Trailer And Website

‘Game of Thrones’ fans have undoubtedly been busy playing a new 10 second...

'Game of Thrones' Fans Told To

'Homeland' Star Damian Lewis Receives O.B.E. At Buckingham Palace

Damian Lewis has spoken of his “big, big surprise” at being awarded an OBE...

'Homeland' Star Damian Lewis Receives O.B.E. At Buckingham Palace

Angelina Jolie Might Be Put Off British Move By 'Mansion Tax'

Hollywood royalty Angelina Jolie has claimed that she might be dissuaded from...

Angelina Jolie Might Be Put Off British Move By 'Mansion Tax'

Tom Hanks And Rita Wilson To Co-Host National Tree Lighting

The National Christmas Tree Lighting event will this year be co-hosted by...

Tom Hanks And Rita Wilson To Co-Host National Tree Lighting
Advertisement