Saturday 8 January 2022

On World Movies (Free to Air Channel 32) and streaming on SBS On-Demand - Barrie Pattison uncovers FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (Asghar Farhadi, Iran, 2006)

In the stew that is World Movies (Channel 32)  you can find Asghar Farhadi’s third film, the 2006 Persian language Chaharshanbe-soori/ Fireworks Wednesday. It precedes his coming to wide attention with Darbareye Elly/About Elly.  This film’s winning Taraneh Alidoosti went on to be that film’s Elly. 

We start with her (below) riding pillion, with her adoring fiancé, and her chador getting tangled in the motorbike wheels. The chador becomes a continuing element - make of that what you will.


We see her preparing her wedding dress and getting an assignment from the domestic employment agency which sends her out as a daily maid. She takes a tram ride through the Tehran streets where kids are letting off fireworks for the annual celebration.


There is a contrast between her eagerly anticipated marriage and the stressed out union between her employers- older, bickering (Iranian star) couple Hediyeh Tehrani and Hamid Farokhnezhad. He is insisting on going off to work though they have tickets for the next day’s flight for the Dubai holiday they have promised young son Matin Heydarinia. The smashed window is an indicator of the previous night’s argument with Farokhnezhad’s hand still bandaged. 


After trouble with the buzzer system, Alidoosti is admitted and starts in on tasks like cleaning up the broken glass. Tehrani is preoccupied with the affair she believes her husband is having with separated hair dresser neighbor Pantea Bahram, about whom the tenants gossip. Tehrani listens at the bathroom ventilator grill, hoping to catch the pair together. 


Tehrani at first dismisses the maid with a cash payoff but then recruits her to spy on Bahram, sending the girl in to have her eyebrows plucked with a fake story about being recommended by a neighbor.


The glass cutter, her estranged brother-in-law and a motherly neighbor show up complicating the day. Bahram’s separated husband is waiting in a parked car. Tehrani hits on the plan of using Alidoosti’s chador to go out to check on her husband’s office. She has sent Alidoosti to collect the boy from school where they are understandably disturbed to have to hand over the child to a stranger. 


Alidoosti’s accepted the picture of her employer as a neurotically jealous woman (“He smells like her perfume”) and calms things by explaining the defective door buzzer meant that their air tickets were left with the hairdresser to account for her suspicious knowledge of their trip. We wonder whether the makers had taken Le diner des cons on board.


Farokhnezhad agrees to drive the maid home through the city’s chaotic traffic but there’s a surprise coming.  When he finally gets round to taking her across the night streets full of bonfires and fireworks kids, Aldiosti still hasn’t retrieved the chador. 


This one doesn’t have the unemphatic tone we find in the later, better Farhadi films. There is an uncharacteristic attempt at up-tempo pacing and filmic touches like a traffic montage. The fireworks provide incidents and a disturbing sound background. The writer-director appears to have revised his style at this point. He draws on the subject matter more effectively for his 2011 Jodaeiye Nader az Simin/A Separation.


Added to its obvious interest as a glimpse of life in Post-Revolutionary Iran, Fireworks Wednesday is an intriguing clue to the development of one of the most closely examined current film makers. It’s worth a look.

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