Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad
Written by: Bahman Ghobadi, Hossein Mortezaeiyan, Roxana Saberi
Directed by: Bahman Ghobadi
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Persian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 05/14/2009
IMDB

No One Knows About Persian Cats (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Don't Knock the Rock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bahman Ghobadi's No One Knows About Persian Cats is a rock 'n' roll movie, specifically an "assemble the band" movie like The Blues Brothers, but it has the rambling, slapdash quality of something like A Hard Day's Night, including some welcome humor. It uses the many-band format of films like The Girl Can't Help It or 9 Songs, wherein the characters travel all over town to see various bands perform. But ultimately, it strikes me as something of an Iranian version of The Harder They Come, with a bit of a political jab.

The story has singing duo Negar Shaghaghi (who sounds a bit like Charlyne Yi from Paper Heart) and Ashkan Koshanejad deciding to play some concerts in London and going about getting their passports and visas, as well as assembling a backing band. It is recommended also that they find more female backing vocalists, since the authorities frown upon solo female singers. The group has also written some English-language music, which is likewise frowned upon. In fact, just about all the bands in the movie are forced to practice and perform in secret spaces to avoid getting arrested. Now that's rock 'n' roll.

Helping them out is the fast-talking Nader (Hamed Behdad), who knows all the underground musicians and can get all the black market documents they need, "no problem." Though our heroes are looking for specific musicians, Nader takes them all over Tehran on his motorbike to hear samples of several different genres (from folk to rap), even if nothing comes of it. Thankfully, the music is all really interesting and very exciting, even if the plot threads that connect it are not. Director Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses, Marooned in Iraq, Turtles Can Fly) sometimes throws in some MTV music video-like footage for the songs, which is sometimes powerful and sometimes cheesy.

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