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With: Mania Akbari, Bijan Daneshmand
Written by: Mania Akbari
Directed by: Mania Akbari
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Farsi with English subtitles
Running Time: 72
Date: 09/01/2004

20 Fingers (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

If a Man Loves a Woman

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Painter-turned-actress Mania Akbari (the driver in Abbas Kiarostaim's Ten) makes her directorial debut with 20 Fingers, and it's no small achievement. Yes, it's simplistic -- the film comprises no more than ten single shots -- and it may be just a tad overwritten, but it's powerful, wrenching stuff. Originally conceived as seven vignettes about different couples, Akbari decided to play in all of them herself, alongside Bijan Daneshmand (Munich), each of them exploring various facets in various stages of various relationships. In one, a man tries to determine if his lover is a virgin after she tells stories of playing "doctor" with a male cousin as a girl. In another, a man argues against his wife getting an abortion. In a third, a man gets jealous that his wife danced with another man. Each vignette unfolds in a single shot, but the choice of location is just as important as the camerawork. In one, the couple rides a motorcycle through the city streets (a young child grasped between them), while the camera races alongside them, sometimes close, sometimes far away. In another shot, the couple rides an elevated cable car, and the camera swishes back and forth between them, rarely -- if ever -- capturing them in the same frame at the same time. The situations as conceived can come across as preachy or soapy, but in practice they spring dramatically to life. The running theme is not so much the cruelty of man, but the nature of love. It's a remarkable, and tough-minded debut.

DVD Details: The 2007 DVD from Facets does not include any extras, but it does contain an interesting liner notes booklet with an interview and an essay about the film.

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