re-reading the screen magazine review for Bitter Dream
Crazy humor with a bold risk
Art & Experience: The first movie of Mohsen Amiryoussefi, “Bitter Dream” which was made in 2004 is going to screened during mid November in Art & Experience cinema group. The movie has been screened in Canne Festival 2004 and some reviews were published after that and you can read one of them which was by Peter Brunette from Screen Magazine below.
“Written and directed by first-time film-maker Mohsen Amiryoussefi, a self-confessed Brechtian, the film unfolds as a series of loosely connected, intensely self-reflective vignettes, which center on Abbas Esfandiar, a man, who in real life as in the film, washes corpses in preparation for their last rites. This apparently unpromising premise is rescued by the 32-year-old director’s wonderful gallows humour, which enlivens the proceedings every time they threaten to get too heavy. Still,despite its wit and wisdom, the film’s obsessive tracking of a single idea and a single character may be too demanding for most audiences, and the film’s commercial prospects appear slight. That said, the film should certainly be considered by festival programmers looking to add intellectual heft nicely married to a scruffy offbeat humour. Esfandiar,like many of his past customers, one day begins to sense the presence of Ezrael, the Angel of Death. What’s different this time around is that Esfandiar mostly communes with Ezrael through the medium of his old black-and-white television set, a plot ploy that sets up an infinite series of visualized,dramatic doublings between the real and the imagined. (At one point, the televised images show what seem to be Esfandiar’s own funeral.) Thinking he is on the verge of death, he goes to Delbar, his female fellow-bodywasher and neighbor, the grave-digger and official clothes burner to seek forgiveness for the harsh treatment he has always meted out to them. The result is a series of extremely droll scenes that are brilliantly underplayed, especially considering that all the actors are non-professionals. Sound,provided by the same engineer who works for Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, is well-articulated and provides an ongoing flow of delicately wry humour that complements the visuals. Stark long shots admirably carry the film’s deeper themes. (Amiryoussefi is an expert in the kind of visual deadpan joke that undercuts the more mundane set-up.) Atone moment, for example, Esfandiar prepares elaborately for the coming of the Angel of Death, by lying flat and gravely still, only to give in to the nagging temptation of one last fag. In another, Esfandiar is teaching his apprentice how to wash a dead body when the cadaver suddenly sits up and asks for another 500 tomans if the apprentice is also going to practice on his genital organs. So many Iranian films of recent years have focused on children, and it is a relief to see the other end of the age spectrum represented for a change. The director said in an interview that, growing up during the Iran-Iraq war, he has always felt that Iranian society is more devoted to death than to life. In this astute, sharply-observed little film, he has found, through humour, a way to take a decisive step in the right direction. In recording of this lookalike-documentary film sometimes very fine details are fabulous and have become strange and sometimes have highly ironic. Especially in the last quarter “Bitter Dream” we can see an incredible and adventuress combination that could be understood as a kind of literary and Eastern Europe of a horror comedy. This movie features and subtle humor has given a great originality to bitter dream, it makes it extremely glamorous and naughty. “Bitter Dream” is a crazy humor with a bold risk. The film powerfully repeated the death subject, managed to makes the exhaustion leave and never forget”