Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’: Fireworks Wednesday (2009) de Asghar Farhadi
May 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
As is often the case, ‘last minute’ additions were made to this year’s Cannes line-up and the main Competition pool was widened by one entry, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, the Iranian filmmaker’s second Palme d’Or nominee after 2013’s The Past. Accordingly, Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’ welcomes an earlier Farhadi work to the Alternative Competition: Fireworks Wednesday, a film which – alongside About Elly (2009) – has recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest following the cultural coup that was A Separation (2011) and the subsequent increase in western critical appreciation for Farhadi’s output as a writer-director. Set in Tehran, against the Persian New Year (Chaharshanbe-soori) for which the film is named, Fireworks Wednesday is a tale of threatened domestic implosion, feeling almost like an alternate-universe prequel to A Separation. Young bride-to-be Roohi (Taraneh Alidoosti) lands a casual cleaning job via an agency only to find herself caught between a household that is a mess on several fronts and the various individuals that may or may not prove a threat to said household. Mentally beleaguered Mozhde harbours a frankly debilitating suspicion that her husband Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) is being unfaithful, and on the eve of a family trip to Dubai (with their young son), it all comes to a spitting boil. As tension builds in a manner that suggests impending emotional explosions to rival the inevitable late night fireworks, Roohi must manoeuver her way around a stream of secrets and lies while earning a few thousand Tomans for her own wedding. Having seen three of his films to date, Farhadi’s ability to stage big, bold dramatic conflict that feels natural and strangely uncontrived makes his approach to cinema one that many of his English-language contemporaries would do well to investigate. From Hediye Tehrani’s bare, exposed-nerve performance as the betrayed wife (whose issues clearly extend beyond the marital realm) to the wild spousal sparring matches, Fireworks Wednesday should feel – at times – like overheated theatre, but somehow doesn’t. Even the sly social critiquing (a staple of western-friendly contemporary Iranian cinema), often aimed at unbalanced gender dynamics, is low-key to the point of being insidious. A large part of this is due to the writerly instincts of Farhadi and co-scribe Mani Haghighi, who are careful to introduce tantalising plot developments with understatement and patience offset by fast-flowing, emphatic dialogue, so much so that the first fifteen minutes almost dare the viewer to speculate on what is and isn’t of narrative significance. Then there is Farhadi’s visual generosity, at once loose and controlled, allowing his characters the freedom to roam the cluttered apartment spaces and bustling streets. But for all the consummate off-camera craftsmanship, the true mastery lies in front of the lens, headlined by a trio of performances that are highly complementary by way of being vastly different: naked and raw (Hediye Tehrani), barely contained (Hamid Farokhnezhad), and deftly unassuming (Taraneh Alidoosti). In general, additional proof of Iran’s supremely humane contributions to international cinema.