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Women Without Men

Submitted by admin on June 3, 2024 – 11:16 pmNo Comment

Women Without Men is an Iranian film that’s not actually made in Iran. But that’s a good thing since the subject matter crosses tough political lines, and would never be distributed in that country anyway. That means this German-Austrian-French co-production is probably widely in circulation as a bootleg DVD in Iran and opening exclusively at the Angelika Film Center this weekend.

Women Without Men (Zanan-e bedun-e mardan) comes from a well-known novel that was banned in Iran in the 1990s and the author, Shahrnush Parsipur who herself has been imprisoned on different occasions in her native country, currently lives in the US. But that’s not a reason to see the film so much as it’s an intelligent drama with flourishes of surrealism (or maybe that’s Middle Eastern magical realism), all with a decidedly European sensibility.

The film boasts a cool desaturated look that accentuates greens and dark hues while practically bleaching out all reds. When red does appear, in a reoccurring garden theme, the visual staggers. The story follows a series of women in various modes of oppression. The timeframe mainly concerns the 1952 coup where the Americans and British orchestrated the overthrow of the then elected head honcho and reinstalled the Shah.

The history of the 1950s is foggy, just ask anybody outside academia about America in that era much less Iran. Yet the facts of that time are compelling and every reel or so the film fills in the cracks in the political climate by showing characters listening to reports of insurrection on the radio or watching a rally unfold on television.

There’s no main character per se but at the end of the film we realize that the entire narrative was mostly what was going through one character’s mind as she was traveling a great distance.

- Michael Bergeron

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