Poetry in Motion: Tehran: City of Love
A beautifully paced tragicomedy by writer-director Ali Jaberansari filmed around the unrequited love experienced by three lonely individuals living in the Iranian capital, Tehran: City of Love presents the charms and challenges of this bustling metropolis.
The first of the stories revolves around champion bodybuilder Hessam Fazli (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari), who is attempting to be cast in an upcoming film, and is (wrongly) informed that it stars France’s most famous actor, Louis Garrel. Hessam normally works with older men, but comes across young Arshia (Amir Reza Alizadeh), who is training to be a bodybuilder too. Scenes between the pair verge on homoeroticism, as the former gazes longingly at the young man, a Persian Death in Venice if you will.
Mina Shamsi (Forough Ghajabegli) is an overweight receptionist at a beauty clinic, where we see an array of patients, and it’s no coincidence that this is where we find her as Iran is widely regarded as the nose-job capital of the world, with many of its citizens focused on their physical appearance. Mina spends her time eating ice cream and enticing men she finds attractive by phoning them with a disguised, overtly sexy voice, yet as each man arrives for the date, Mina stands them up in a form of revenge. Attempting to find a compatible suitor, she joins a class titled “Geometry of Love and Relationships”.
A singer at religious funerals in a mosque, the melancholic Vahid (Mehdi Saki) has recently been estranged from his fiancée, and endeavours to conceal his broken relationship from keen parents. The musician is encouraged by a friend to sing at weddings – these particular celebrations are organised in secrecy away from the hostile modesty police – where he soon befriends a female professional photographer by the name of Niloufar. As we see him take to more celebratory singing, Vahid’s earlier morose frown gradually transforms into happier features.
The three protagonists calmly endure their misfortunes, and as an audience you root for their contentment. The bittersweet elements that come with the feature’s inherent offbeat deadpan humour can be credited to the actors’ excellent comic timing and the script by Jaberansari and Maryam Najafi, which echoes the work of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. Exquisitely crisp cinematography is delivered by director of photography Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah, giving the movie its sharp definition and vivid scenes comprising contrasting colours against sunnier hues.
As the characters’ individual accounts are given room to breathe – aided by great editing from Askhan Mehri – the feature feels alive and relevant to modern life in an urban metropolis.
Tehran: City of Love is screening as part of Poetry in Motion at the Barbican on 13th April 2019. For further information or to book tickets visit the event’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Tehran: City of Love here: