Mani Haghighi is an Iranian director that I was unfamiliar with until this film. I hope to see more of his other movies after experiencing this vastly entertaining piece of sick humor about social climbing and status in the country of Iran. The set up is pretty simple and intriguing. Hasan Kasmai is a director of films in Iran, but he has run a fowl of the government censorship rules and is basically barred from working in film for an unspecified period of time. While he is making due with commercial shoots and keeping up with the film community in the culture world, other Iranian film directors are being murdered by a serial killer, who has the unmitigated Gaul to ignore Hasan.
It might seem that serial murder and laughter are not complimentary companions, Haghighi as screenwriter, director and early victim, manages to argue persuasively that they do. Hasan is a close friend of the first victim we see and is asked to identify the body, correction, not the body, just the head. A moment from a Farelly Brother’s movie follows. It is painful, hysterical and gruesome all at once. Hasan is the central figure and his displacement in the community is heightened by the fact that everyone else in the community seems to be a target except him.
Some moments of grisly farce are interspersed with fantasy dream sequences as Hasan goes from being neglected potential victim to social media star suspect. His interviews with investigating officials don’t seem to lead anywhere except into a deeper hole. His aged mother has some dementia issues but at times she comes across as his strongest defender and the one who makes the most sense in the story. The other women in his life are breaking his heart or stalking him. We can’t really tell if one is a red herring or a black widow.
The character of the director who is lost emotionally and professionally is still pretty sympathetic. With his hangdog face and moribund demeanor he seems like a sad sack case but one that manages to be a provocative outsider. In every scene he appears in Hasan wears a metal band tee shirt, including two Kiss shirts featuring the image of Gene Simmons. This was not something I expected to see in an Iranian movie but it clearly made an impression on me. Two other items that made a deep impression are the pesticide commercial he is directing and the music video he creates in his head as he is held in solitary confinement for a period.
The absurd story plays out with a great deal of violence and ridiculous imagery, which was all entertaining as hell. I’m sure Howard might have his own thoughts to write about but he told me this was the best thing he saw at the AFI Fest, and I could easily believe it. I can hardly wait for a blu-ray release.