Autumn 2004 Edge series
Sunday, November 14, 2004 at 7:00pm
Rated NR ·
An Official Selection of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Un Certain Regard Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle) is acclaimed for his ability to combine engaging narrative with social commentary, and his latest film, set in the crime-laced streets of Tehran, is no exception.
The film’s dramatic opening shows a working-class man who has been driven to crime and suicide. Over a darkened screen, voices indicate a hold-up is taking place. A silhouette becomes visible against a rectangle of light – a shop doorway opening onto a Tehrani street. Amid the chaos of the robbery attempt, the thief shoots the store owner, then holds the gun to his own temple. The contrasts in this scene – light and dark, clinical observation and emotional intensity – echo throughout the film as Panahi recounts the events leading up to the shooting. He sheds light on the motivations behind the act in the same way that the long, fixed opening shot gradually reveals the desperate man’s shape, his face and, finally, the extent of his distress.
Various incidents, symptomatic of a society with great economic disparities, push the laconic but courteous Hussein (Hussein Emadeddin) toward his plan to rob the jewellery store: a con man mistakes Hussein and his lively friend Ali (Kamyar Sheissi) for petty thieves; a pizza delivery man, Hussein is treated with disdain by his wealthy customers. Emadeddin’s portrayal of an honest, stoic man pushed to the breaking point is the source of the film’s mounting tension. As the gap between rich and poor widens in many parts of the world, Panahi’s film is an allegory that is striking, universal and undeniably powerful.