Keep expectations low: Rashid Irani reviews Oscar-winner The Salesman
An Irani couple moves houses, the wife is assaulted, the husband seeks revenge. It’s a plot full of holes and low on excitement
Direction: Asghar Farhadi
Actors: Shahab Hosseni, Taraneh Alidoosti
Rating: 2 / 5
He may have snagged the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film on two occasions (A Separation, 2011; and The Salesman, 2017) but overall, the work of Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi has been, dare one say it, consistently overrated.
The schematic plot of The Salesman attempts to puff up what is essentially a rather shop-worn premise. An actor couple (Taraneh Alidoosti – Shahab Hosseni) is forced to relocate to a rented flat following the imminent collapse of their apartment building.
Soon after they move into their new home, previously occupied by a call girl, the wife is assaulted by one of the former tenant’s clients.
The rest of the narrative focuses on the highly-strung husband as he sets out to find the attacker and bring him to justice. Quite conveniently, the assailant leaves behind his cellphone (now no longer operational), the keys to his minivan, and a wad of cash.
Farhadi’s love of theatre is evident in his stage-bound direction, which is chock-a-block with contrivances. For a purported revenge thriller, there is precious little tension. The tale quickly devolves into a mushy melodrama.
A staging of Arthur Miller’s acclaimed drama, ‘Death of a Salesman’, in which the protagonists participate, serves to foreshadow their fraught relationship with its ongoing trauma.
A little over two hours long, this manipulative morality tale misses its mark despite an intense performance by Hosseni who, incidentally, won Best Actor at last year’s Cannes film festival.
It’s worth noting that this is one of the rare instances of subtitled foreign language film being accorded regular commercial distribution.
On the other hand, just last week, Ken Loach’s vastly superior I, Daniel Blake was relegated to a mere three screenings at a single multiplex chain.
We’re moving in the right direction, it would seem, even if we are driving the wrong vehicles.
Watch the trailer for The Salesman here