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With: Hedye Tehrani, Taraneh Alidoosti, Hamid Farokhnezhad, Pantea Bahram
Written by: Asghar Farhadi, Mani Haghighi
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Farsi, with English subtitles
Running Time: 104
Date: 08/09/2006

Fireworks Wednesday (2006)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

New Year's Fray

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of the things I love about Iranian cinema is that it seems to inspire itself. Even a decade after the first Iranian "New Wave" films began appearing in the United States in 1997, Iranian filmmakers have refused to "go Western" and use Hollywood methods in their films. Rather, Iranian filmmakers have continued to work with the original ideas and methods that made their cinema exciting in the first place. Here's a film directed by a relative newcomer, Asghar Farhadi, that feels just as fresh as films by his predecessors, yet it also turns slightly inward, getting a little closer to the more turbulent human emotions, and it comes out the other side with a vivid, three-dimensional portrait of three characters over the course of one day.

Taraneh Alidoosti stars as Rouhi, a young woman on the verge of marriage with a man she truly loves. She takes a day job as a maid, working for a couple all the way across town. The husband Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) and wife Mojdeh (Hedye Tehrani) prepare to go away for the New Year's holiday. A window has been broken. Rouhi slowly realizes that Mojdeh suspects her husband of having an affair. Throughout the day, Rouhi goes back and forth from being dismissed to sitting in on the family's arguments. At one point, her employer sends her to a beauty parlor, where she hears more gossip. She does her best to help with a few well-placed white lies, but the film has a few more twists.

Director Asghar Farhadi takes his time, allowing information to creep in at its own pace rather than trying to force it all upon us in the first ten minutes. But the most vivid element is his well-rounded characters: men and women truly relating to one another in both positive and negative lights. (Previous Iranian films have tended to be more about poetic concepts than concrete characters.) He also uses veteran actors, rather the preferred method of using amateurs. Hedye Tehrani, with the longest list of credits, is particularly striking; she's quite beautiful and runs the gamut from angry to heartbroken. In one scene, she sinks to an ultimate low: she steals Rouhi's chador as a disguise to spy on her husband, but her husband sinks even lower by hitting her.

Farhadi expertly uses the space of the apartment building, as well as the passing time of the long day. When it gets dark, the Fireworks Wednesday celebration begins (basically New Year's Eve), which verges on a violent outburst. Morteza drives Rouhi home through what looks like a battlefield of fires, explosions and unruly crowds. When Rouhi returns to her husband, her fresh, unalloyed love may have been tainted by a bit of reality, or it may be stronger than ever.

Facets released the 2008 DVD. The quality is fine, though the only extra is an 8-page liner notes booklet.

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