JOINT BEST OF THE FEST.
It’s a strange feeling to realise that you are breaking the law by just watching a film. For those of you who don’t know, in 2010, Panahi and fellow Iranian director, Mohammad Rasoulof, were arrested and Panahi was banned from making films in Iran for the next 20 years. Since 2010, he has made 3 feature films on the sly; 2011’s This is Not a Film about a day in his life under house arrest, Closed Curtain from 2013 and now this. Taxi shows Panahi playing a fictional version of himself having been forced to take work as a taxi driver due to his ban, driving around Tehran, picking up fares and driving his niece home from school. The entire thing is set within the taxi, cutting between a few little locked off cameras. The most amazing thing about Panahi is that even under these restrictions, covertly making films in enclosed spaces, is that they are never suffocating or claustrophobic at all; they throb with the life that is up there onscreen. In Taxi, you realise you are about to spend 80 minutes in this taxi and you’re not going to see much of the outside world except that which zips past the window. However, the variety of life that Panahi shows us from a dodgy DVD seller to two women desperate to get a fish to a river for surreal religious purposes, we see a broad range of normal people which gives you a far better look at Iran than any news media has ever managed. It’s also, strangely, a great hang-out movie. Not to neglect it’s central ideas or the circumstances of it’s making but in the same vein as Richard Linklater’s films or films such as Naked or Somers Town. It is a film that concerns itself with spending precious, fleeting time with characters and finding out their foibles and insecurities and opinions and about how they get by within their country/city/taxi/whatever and interact with those around them. And also how their surroundings influence them aswell. This is one of the reasons that I have the urge, more than any other film this year to see this again as soon as I can. I am no great knowledge on Panahi’s work but having already seen This is Not a Film and 2006’s Offside, I can say that this is my favourite of his so far and I loved those other films but this really had the full gamut for me. It was funny, it was moving, it was informative, it was entertaining, it was challenging but it was throbbing with life and fun too. Like his other works, the more confined he is by outside influence, the more he defiantly flourishes. It has been difficult to write this review because all I want to do is say, if you get the chance, then see it. Now I have said that. So do so.