WFF: Day 2 (Saturday, 11th October)

In the end I didn’t go to see Donkey in Lahore today, was just too tired and too busy *sigh* Not that I should lament too much about it - having bought 12 tickets I won’t exactly be film deprived this week :]
Anyway, Saturday reviews…

Be Like Others

Impressions In Short
Fascinating topic, average film.

Some Details
I don’t think it was a particularly well made film. IMO some of the characters weren’t that well chosen and many conversations were clearly affected by the presence of the camera. Some interesting issues and situations weren’t followed through etc.
The topic itself, however, is mind-boggling. Contrary to what you might think, a documentary about sex change in Iran doesn’t need to be done in secret or anything like that. You can get an official permit for it, there’s no problem. Homosexuality may be punishable by death, but sex change is perfectly legal. Iran does the most sex change operations of any country in the world, the operations are state-funded and it is apparently the only country in the world that changes the gender on the birth certificate.
The logic of how this is possible is fascinating. There is a scene in the film where an imam is preaching about why sex change is permissable and homosexuality is not. Homosexuality falls under fornication - you’re not allowed to have sex outside of marriage full stop and that goes for heterosexuals too. But there is nothing in any Islamic scriptures that says you’re not allowed to change your gender, so why shouldn’t it be allowed? If changing something into something was a sin, the imam argues, then making wheat into flour and flour into bread would be a sin. And what about making a tree into a chair or a table?
I guess I found this way of thinking particularly fascinating as it could be just as easily applied to the Christian faith and yet it is not…
Not that all is well with the issue of sex change in Iran. Sure, if you live in Tehran and manage to get the support of your family then you may be happier after the sex change, but many of the people who have the operation are left very miserable. A lot of them, left with no family support, end up as prostitutes (to make it legal they have temporary marriages).

The other thing that totally caught me by surprise was something very loosely attached to the main topic of the film… Towards the end the director asked all the characters whether they would go through with the operation if the social pressures in Iran weren’t so strong. All of them said no, but one of the responses got me double-checking the subtitles to see if I had read them right. He said something along the lines of that maybe if he and his boyfriend were living in Afghanistan they would not do it, but here in Iran that’s how it has to be.
Sounds confusing, but has a lot of support in fact, apparently. See this short text and the wikipedia article. Bizarre, huh?

I don’t know… I guess it depends. If you’re interested in the topic matter then you’ll probably enjoy yourself - there’s certainly some good reviews of this on-line.
I think that for many people the topic matter of a documentary is more important than how good the documentary actually is, so…

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Impressions In Short
Very strong performances, great score and a lot of atmosphere. Oh and you get to see Philip Seymour Hoffman naked ;)

Some Details
It was terrific to see this film on such a huge screen with such a big crowd (it was totally full and I think the room held 800 people at the very least). On the other hand with neither Kinga nor Andreja to keep me company, it was very unnerving to be the only person laughing in such a huge and full cinema hall :] Most times there were at least 1 or 2 other people amongst the hundreds present who seemed to share my warped sense of humour, but twice I was the ONLY person amongst the hundreds there to laugh and that was a slightly weird feeling (though fortunately nobody seemed to mind).
If you’re wondering - no, I did not laugh when I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman naked ;) And no, nobody else did either ;)
The film is more sexually explicit than I would have expected of an American film and particularly from an acclaimed director who is over 80 years of age. Not that you get any frontal views or anything, but still - there is one scene at the beginning that made me wonder whether the MPAA rating would say something about sexual positions ;) (I’m pretty sure I have read an MPAA rating in the past which said something about a sexual position in a film not being missionary lol).
For some reason Philip Seymour Hoffman naked seems particularly amusing to both me and a lot of other people on-line. Btw, I checked - this is his only nude film lol That aside, he does a terrific job with the acting, as does the rest of the cast. Even some of the smaller parts were awesome.
There’s a huge and beautiful sense of intimacy in many scenes. There’s a few that really stay in your head for a while after. The emotional intensity of it is quite curious considering the storyline sounds like a fairly average crime story.
Finally, Carter Burwell’s score is great :) But then I’ve always liked his soundtracks.

Yes *grin*
Well, unless the idea of seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ass puts you off the film or something like that. Judging by some of the comments on-line there are those who feel like that, but they’re just weird ;-P

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