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The lone arranger in Tehran: City Of Love

10 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Amir Hessam Bakhtiari and Amir Reza Alizadehin in Tehran: City of Love

TEHRAN: CITY OF LOVE
Directed by Ali Jaberansari
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆☆

FINDING companionship in a bustling city provides a framework for this super Iranian film that manages to provide mirth in loneliness and considers how, when surrounded by others, you can feel completely on your own.

Alli Jaberansari’s story revolves around three characters, each searching for a soul mate, and the obstacles they both create for themselves as well as those laid in front of them when a society has conservative strictures in terms of forging emotional bonds.

Vahid (Mehdi Saki) recites prayers at his mosque for the recently departed, a job that gives him a deep melancholia – so much so that his fiancée decides she can’t envisage a future with him.

He is too scared to tell his family that his love has left him, so concocts a story of how she has left the city to visit a dying grandfather for the foreseeable future. He can’t quite come to terms with being dumped, and his painful introspection adds to the sense that in his current mood he isn’t exactly a catch.

To raise his spirits, his friends get him work as a wedding singer, doing gigs at private wedding events that are considered with scorn by the city’s cultural police force. Will it raise his spirits and help him find love?

Mina Shamsi (Forough Ghajabagli) is a receptionist at a beauty clinic. She struggles with her self-image, considers dieting while scoffing ice creams, and has a pastime that consists of arranging blind dates with men she finds attractive and then watching them from afar as their potential love interest does not appear.

Hessam Fazli (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) is a former champion body builder who lives with his aged father. He wants to act and wins a role in a French film (a film which has dodgy connotations, though quite what they are is never quite spelt out).

When a young weight lifter joins his gym and requests he personally train him for a competition, Hessam finds a new interest: the underlying homoeroticism is gently broached, wonderfully played and is laden with the tragedy of unfulfilled love.

We follow these three brilliantly observed and brilliantly acted characters as they search for romantic meaning.

This is wholly original and heartfelt film-making, with understated comedy, and carefully created scenes that speak of the loneliness of living cheek by jowl with millions of others.

As well as a beguiling cast and three terrific stories, director Jaberansari has shot something close to a masterpiece in terms of set up. There is a strange and regular front-on camera angle to most scenes, as if we are sitting in a gallery and looking down as eye in the sky observers. Images are symmetrical, mimicking the city’s patterns. It also enjoys a wonderful occasional score, from the noise made in an older person’s keep fit class to the bustle of the streets, its soundtrack draws you in.

Like Vahid’s voice, Tehran: City Of Love is mesmerising, moving, and thoughtful.

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