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FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (Chahar Shanbeh Suri) (director/writer: Asghar Farhadi; screenwriter: Mani Haghighi; cinematographer: Hossein Jafarian; editor: Hayedeh Safi-Yari; music: Peyman Yazdanian; cast: Hamid Farokhnezhad (Morteza), Hedye Tehrani (Mojdeh), Taraneh Alidoosti (Rouhi), Pantea Bahram (Simine), Matin Heydarnia (Amir-Ali, the couple’s young son), Houman Seyadi (Abdolreza, the maid’s groom-to-be), Sahar Dolatshahi (Mojdeh’s sister), Hassan Tasiri (Simine’s ex-husband), Forough Ghojabeyglou (The caretaker’s wife); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Seyed Jamal Sadatian; Facets; 2006-Iran-in Farsi with English subtitles)
“Delves into the messy lives of modern-day Iranians living a tense life in bustling Tehran.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Asghar Farhadi (“The Beautiful City”/”Dancing in the Dust”) delves into the messy lives of modern-day Iranians living a tense life in bustling Tehran. He follows a day in the life of an Iranian family when things are boiling over with both personal angst and the lively spirit of a national holiday. Farhadi is the cowriter with Mani Haghighi. They give the westerner a rare look at the private lives of a much maligned people who are often misunderstood by the outside world. “Fireworks” eschews politics and the loud rhetoric of its belligerent real-life controversial leader to instead focus on universal problems such as social hierarchies, the everyday life of the common people and domestic conflicts. It’s more interesting to me than a similar themed Hollywood rocky marriage melodrama because it’s set in the unfamiliar confines of Iran and gives me a greater knowledge of the people than one would get from the headlines. Farhadi’s film is impressive in the realistic and matter-of-fact way it depicts both the urban middle and lower classes and in how it handles extra-marital affair complexities in a patriarchal society, as the film is seen through the eyes of a naive soon-to-be bride.

The title refers to the celebration on Wednesday of March 21st of the traditional Iranian New Year and the celebration of the festival of fire that falls on the last Tuesday evening before the Iranian New Year. That night celebration will call for people gathering in parks and mobbing the streets while setting off firecrackers and building bonfires. The holiday also signals a time to do one’s spring cleaning.

It’s during this hectic time that the young sweet cleaning lady temp named Rouhi, a soon to be bride, who works for an employment agency, is hired for the day on Tuesday to clean the apartment of a middle-class couple who live on the other side of town and who are going away on holiday for the New Year. The wide-eyed innocent is soon drawn into the unhappy couple’s marriage problems, as she cleans up the messy apartment after they had a spat the other night. The wife, Mojdeh, suspects her husband of eleven years, Morteza, of having an affair with the divorced next door neighbor hairdresser Simine, though hubby vehemently denies this.

Whether the accusation is true or not won’t be determined for the viewer until the third act. In the meantime Rouhi is taken into confidence by all three parties (she has her eyebrows plucked for her wedding by Simine, as Mojdeh sends her there as a spy) and gets an eyeful of what a bumpy marriage is like—giving the happy woman a bit of a fright about her upcoming marriage. Through the women depicted in such an open manner, we get an idea of how women struggle in that limited society, the mistrust between the sexes and the attitudes of the woman gossipers to adultery. By late at night when Rouhi is driven home by Morteza, she is a more experienced woman and glad to be returning to her less complicated future husband and less complicated life and away from the neurotic couple and their child Amir-Ali—even though she sort of likes that family.

The film is great on atmosphere (the noisy and crowded street scenes with merrymakers are contrasted with the sullen couple battling alone in their spacious luxury apartment), keeping things real and is intelligently told from more or less a woman’s point of view, but elements of the thin story seem padded.

It won the best film prize at the Chicago International Film festival.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”