2013 Milwaukee Film Festival #6 – Jafar Panahi is a Saint, and the Flight of the Conchords Movie That Wasn't - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

2013 Milwaukee Film Festival #6 – Jafar Panahi is a Saint, and the Flight of the Conchords Movie That Wasn’t

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Closed Curtain

Closed Curtain (Dir. Jafar Panahi) – 4/5

Jafar Panahi has more or bigger balls than I do — if I was delivered a 6-year prison sentence and banned from making films for 20 years by the Iranian government, I would not continue to make them in my home and smuggle them out of the country, and then on top of that boldly claim that they aren't films for satirical, tongue-in-cheek reasons. It's the equivalent of getting yelled at for picking on a sibling, and then standing with your finger a half-inch away from them repeatedly saying “I'm not touching you.” That the films Panahi has made are funny, heartfelt, and maintain a sense of undeterred hope overlays the courage necessary to make them in the first place with a kind of humanistic sainthood.


Closed Curtain works in a couple different ways, first as an allegory about a writer working on dissenting material who balks when faced with the opportunity to do something that could actually land him in trouble, and then as a less certain, less direct representation of the artistic and emotional impulses at work in Panahi himself following his filmmaking ban. Plot-wise, we're never sure what exactly is actually happening, what is symbolic, and whether the distinction matters.

The film starts with a writer holed up in his home on the water, curtains drawn, with his dog Boy. News flashes across the TV about Iran banning and killing dogs across the country, and we get clips of a manuscript the man is working on that are enough to see that it comments on these events. Then a brother and sister show up at his house, unannounced, saying they are being pursued by the police. The brother leaves the sister in the man's care, much against his protests, and leaves to find a car for them.

The character of the writer and the woman become less clear around the mid-point of the film, when Panahi himself shows up and alters the reality of the first scenes. The movie would be hard to spoil, but there's also not much to talk about without having seen it—what starts as a straightforward narrative becomes more about the struggle between Panahi's impulse to tell stories and create and the fear he feels artistically and from the state. I'll be giving it a second look when it's available on DVD, on demand, etc.
History of Future Folk

The History of Future Folk (Dir. John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker) – 2/5

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Flight of the Conchords made a movie for Comedy Central, or maybe FX, but then didn't show up for the casting? Then The History of Future Folk may be for you. I'm not sure how this ended up at a film festival. If I was sitting around at home with friends on a weekend, and we were having some beers, and it was midnight, and we were tired of playing video games, running across this movie on cable by accident may be a little fun. That's the best praise I can give it, and I refuse to say anything more.

Oh, Dee Snider is in a few scenes. So that's cool.


Next Update (Friday, Oct. 11) – Zaytoun, The Rambler, and a festival wrap-up!

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Posted by Kyle Miner

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