House is Black
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The House Is Black
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A revelation of staggering force, lyrically composed by one of the 20th century's leading poets, Forough Farrokhzad. Her first and only film, it depicts the lives and bodies of people tragically deformed by leprosy. A film of stirring and powerful images, and a beautifully, tragically poetic narration that heavily influenced the modern Iranian cinema of Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who called it "the best Iranian film." It provides, in the film's own words, "a vision of pain no caring human being should ignore." In Farsi with English subtitles. Forough Farrokhzad---Iran---1962---22 mins.
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1. The main attraction here is 'The House Is Black,' filmed in 1963. It is the only film by Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967), one of Iran's most important feminist poets of the 20th century. Her film was a great influence on later generation film makers, especially Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami. (Kiarostami's 'The Wind Will Carry Us' features a poem by Forough Farrokhzad in the cow milking scene.) The film sets poetically edited images of residents of a leper colony to Forough Farrokhzad's poetry - or vice versa - achieving a unity of both that laments the fate of the afflicted. Leprosy would have been a highly unusual and brave subject matter in 1963 in any country, the more so I imagine in Iran in a time when Iran's rulers tried to project a progressive, modern image to the West. An interview with Forough Farrokhzad's sister is included as a bonus.
2. Mohsen Makhmalbaf's 1996 short 'The School That Was Blown Away' shows the school for nomad children which is also seen in 'Gabbeh'. A mysterious visitor to the school, believed to be an inspector from the from Educational Ministry turns out to have motives of a different kind.
3. Mohsen Makhmalbaf made 'Images from the Ghajar Dynasty' around 1992 while preparing 'Once Upon A Time, Cinema'. The Qajar family ruled Iran from 1785 - 1925. The documentary shows photos and early film material from 100 years ago of the Shah's court, the Golestan Palace in Tehran, and old family portraits of the time. The magnificent splendor of the old regime stands in jarring contrast to the images of the leper colony.
With some of the film material being 100, 50 and 15 years old respectively, the image quality looks generally quite poor on a HD TV. These days, one can find images of the Ghajar Dynasty and Golestan Palace online, but for connoisseurs of Iranian film, the haunting 'The House Is Black' is a must-see.