Dir: Rafi Pitts. Iran 2005.86mins.
Rafi Pitts' remarkable It's Winter is one of those films that forces you to rethink your preconceptions about Iraniancinema. Although recognisably in a taut, austereIranian mould, the film feels new in several ways. Its central figure is notjust an anti-hero but is abrasively unsympathetic; its narrative structure suggestsan odd mix of film noir and Kafka; and its sexual undertones are surprisinglyupfront, albeit in a very discreet way.
It's Winter will considerably raise the profile of Pitts, whosethird feature this is and whose last film was a documentary about Abel Ferrara.Sales interest should be brisk.
At the start ofthe film, a man is seen walking despondently through heavily falling snow - abeautifully-shot motif that frames the film. We then see him at home takingleave of his wife, mother and young daughter: out of a job, he must look forwork abroad. He leaves on the next train - and then the film jumps to anotherman getting off a bus somewhere at night.
It turns out thatwe're still in the same town, where one Marhab (Nicksolat) has blown in from the north, himself looking forwork. Charismatic and confident, Marhab befriendsanother young man in an inn, and introduces himself as a specialist inrepairing cranes. His new friend fixes him up with a job at his own workplace.
Soon we learnthat months have passed and the departed husband has vanished. Marhab, meanwhile, has taken a shine to the man's wife, whoworks in a clothing workshop, and before long, news arrives that allows him tomake his move. An elegant twist ending, however, rounds the film off incircular parable-like structure.
Within Iraniancinema, It's Winter seems as strikingan anomaly as Jafar Panahi'sCrimson Gold, with its dysfunctionalpizza-boy protagonist. The film is remarkable in making its anti-hero at onceso unsavoury and so magnetic. Played by Nicksolat with a petulant swagger, Marhabis surely the closest Iranian cinema comes to a rock and roll figure.
What's especiallystriking here is the depiction of his sexually predatory attitude: in onescene, he and the departed man's wife are seen openly flirting, while anotherdepicts Marhab and a prostitute sizing each other upin an alley.
With itsindustrial-rural setting, the film is also outspoken about Iran's socialmalaise - about employment problems, as well as the attitudes of Iranian men.The departing father comes across as defeatist, leaving his wife to do the hardwork, while Marhab is depicted as arrogant,irresponsible, exploitative and shockingly cavalierabout family and elders.
The endingsuggests that Marhab might finally be in line forredemption, but it's done with breathtaking economy in the final three shots.
Mohammad Mehdi Dadgoo
adapted from Safar by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Mohammad Reza Shajarian