(director/writer: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; cinematographer: Mahmoud Kalari; editor: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; cast: Mirhadi Tayebi (The Policeman), Ali Bakhshi (The Young Director), Ammar Tafti (The Young Policeman), Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Himself), Maryam Mohamadamini (The Young Woman), Moharam Zinal Zadeh (Assistant director, Cinematographer), Hana Makhmalbaf (Girl at door,director’s daughter); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Abolfazl Alagheband; New Yorker Films; 1996-Iran/France/Switzerland-in Farsi with English subtitles)

“It’s a wry comedy and a warm human interest story from Iran.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Its original Farsi title literally means Bread and Flower. It’s a wry comedy and a warm human interest story from Iran that looks back in a lyrical way to re-construct an actual colorful incident that happened to the director when he was an angry 17-year-old, back in the days of the Shah in 1974. The boy in question was a political revolutionary, the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (“Kandahar”/”The Silence”/”Gabbeh”), who wishes to tell in his own unusual way how he stabbed a young policeman during a botched attempt to steal his gun and as a result spent five years in prison thinking about his foul deed. He was not released until after the Islamic revolution in 1979, and strangely enough the same policeman he stabbed in 1994, now a former policeman and aspiring actor, turns up at his doorsteps in Tehran to audition for a film he was making prior to this one. That was what gave the filmmaker the idea to make this film, saying its purpose was to ‘recapture his youth with a camera.’

Makhmalbaf and the humorless, harmless and oafish giant policeman (Mirhadi Tayebi) are now in their 40s and play themselves as they are now. The director casts someone who is 20 as the policeman (Ammar Tafti) and someone 17 to play the young Makhmalbaf (Ali Bakhshi), and both the ex-cop and director coach the ones who portray them. He then casts the daughter of his cousin (Maryam Mohamadamini), his love interest at the time who abetted him in the assault and received a light sentence. While Makhmalbaf was in jail, she was freed and married someone else. The shoot is set in a snowbound Tehran, and the stabbing that takes place oddly enough has a different spin for both the policeman and the director. As the policeman recalls the incident, the young girl stopped by for a short while every day at the bazaar where he stood guard at the door of a diplomat to ask directions or for the time, which he took for flirting, and he was prepared to offer her a white flower and to ask her out on the day of the incident. The director’s spin, has him hiding his switchblade knife underneath some bread and his cousin who assisted him was used as a decoy for the revolutionary cause to distract the policeman as she asked for the time when he attacked.

The film is sincere and one cannot help but detect a self-effacing tone to the incident from a director whose restless life has drastically changed for the better after reflecting on his actions of 20 years ago and his misplaced idealism for a cause that was seemingly beyond his comprehension at the time–his moment of innocence no longer calls for him believing that acts of violence can further positive social change.

REVIEWED ON 8/10/2009 GRADE: A  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”