Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Came home from Rosewater last night, turned on the TV/Twitter and saw what was going on in Ferguson. That rumbling sound was any sign off the high ground one might have as an American crumbling under one's feet.

Depressing takes on how the world in general seems to be going to hell aside, I found myself wondering after seeing the movie if writer/director Jon Stewart's spending the last few years on The Daily Show may have affected the way this movie was put together, aside from being how he met its subject. It's a magazine show, built to be good five or ten minutes at a time, and by all accounts it has steadily become smarter and more incisive under Stewart's watch. He's made a movie that has quite a few good moments, but they don't necessarily build on each other to create a whole. There's not really an overarching theme to the movie despite it being one man's story, and it makes me wonder if Stewart is taking the ability to pivot and change subjects for granted.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 November 2014 at AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DCP)

I want more from Rosewater, but I'm not exactly sure what I want more of. More obvious suffering and torment on the part of its protagonist would certainly drive the point home better, but demanding that seems callous and sadistic. A more traditional narrative that reduces real-life events to an early digestible story would do the people and events depicted a disservice. A broader perspective might lose the point entirely. And yet, it's hard to shake the feeling that this fairly well-made movie should make a viewer feel more, whether that more be anger, fear, or hope.

It's the story of Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal), a London-based journalist who returns to the family home in Tehran to cover the 2012 election for Newsweek. Contrary to his initial plans, he sticks around to cover the protests afterward, and at least one of the images he captures on video leads the police to arrest him as a spy, to be thrown in jail and face daily interrogations by "specialist" Javadi (Kim Bodina), although Bahari is not privy to his name and, blindfolded, recognizes him by the scent of rosewater.

It is established early on that Javadi's superiors wish to score a propaganda victory with Bahari's televized confession, so the usual physical abuse is taken off the table. As mentioned above, it's not as if I want to watch a good man be tortured, but the lack of certain obvious cues means that first-time filmmaker Jon Stewart must work a bit harder to really make the audience feel what Bahari is going through, and he's maybe not quite up to the task yet. The audience will see Bahari blindfolded but not experience the disorientation or sensory deprivation; regular trims to his hair and beard keep them from marking the passage of time unless a caption appears on screen.

Full review at EFC.

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