Marriage of the Blessed (Mohsen Makhmalbaf / Iran, 1989):
(Arousi-ye Khouban)

Politicized anger, wide-angled views: Mohsen Makhmalbaf mounts the camera on a tray and wheels it through asylum corridors into a Marat/Sade ward, where the recently concluded Iran-Iraq War is replayed in the minds of mangled inmates ("we are in a critical situation... send angels!"). Battlefield horrors have rattled Mahmud Bigham, a photojournalist, and the mise en scène takes after his psyche, with every edit, whether jump-cut or dissolve, a countdown toward inexorable eruption. His rich, future in-laws need him to honor the marriage contract and escort him back to the outside world, with "gaiety" and bottles of medicine; an Alfa Romeo's hood ornament is used to frame Khomeini quotes scribbled on a wall, the homecoming gets punctuated by ripe pomegranates hitting the ground like missile detonations. His bride (Roya Nonahali) arranges soothing mementos for him, but Bigham insists on running dismaying footage of African misery through his projector -- ideals are all he has left, he tells her, so the two take to photographing the underbelly of Tehran, the flash of their snapshots generating literal illumination in the dark. Forever toeing a meltdown, Bigham is dubbed "the anxious eye of the revolution" by an editor, though when the newspapers prove more interested in publishing sunflower pics he goes guerilla in the streets, only to bump into a film crew shooting Marriage of the Blessed. Meta-touches abound (the image turns negative, then upside-down, finally atomized into black-and-white), yet Makhmalbaf's helter-skelter reportage is moved first by jagged agitating disillusionment, "Stolen food is delicious" shouted from the balcony of a wedding ceremony or a frantic camera strapped to a wheelchair. The 180° circular pan in the hospital room towards the end embodies the protagonist's traumas with frenzy locked in circles, still Makhmalbaf envisions a possible way out by revisiting one of his nightmarish sights, the typewriter that spits bullets, attaching it to the lenses and aiming it at oppression, the way art is capable of. With Ebrahim Abadi, and Mohsen Zaehtab.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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