20 August 2015 | by Peter Bradshaw
Iranian film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf explores what happens to deposed dictators with dyspeptic ferocity
Who knew Mohsen Makhmalbaf could direct a satirical drama-thriller? This Iranian film-maker – renowned and revered for complex, demanding art movies such as Gabbeh (1995) and Kandahar (2001) – hits a bold new stride with this film, which I first saw at Venice last year, co-written with his wife, Marziyeh Meshkiny, herself a formidable film-maker. It’s a movie parable about political realities such as the Arab spring and indeed Eastern Europe, with echoes of Twain and Beckett, the sort of movie that Milos Foreman could have made decades ago, yet it feels modern and sharp.
What happens to tinpot strongman dictators, once pampered by the west as bulwarks against communism and Islamism, when they are overthrown? Georgian actor Misha Gomiashvili plays the ageing, tyrannical president of an unnamed country. After a violent uprising – Makhmalbaf creates a nailbiter of an opening sequence – he disguises himself as a beggar and goes on the run with his adored grandson, pretending to be an itinerant musician with his monkey-boy sidekick. Will his new poverty and humiliation give him an insight into the people he ground under his heel? Or is his exhaustion and fear merely symptomatic of the nation’s death throes in this drama of dismay? This is not so much Lear and the Fool, more the Fool with a much older Fool. It’s an intriguingly fierce and dyspeptic film.
Source: The Guardian - 20 August 2015