Unsurprisingly with Bond on the loose, most distributors are running scared this weekend. That makes it the perfect time for a little arthouse counter-programming from Iran to Wales via Italy and Sherlock Holmes.
First up is Taxi Tehran from famed dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi. The Iranian director has received acclaim internationally and legal action domestically with arrests and prison sentences. He once had to smuggle a film out of the country on a flash drive hidden in a cake. For Taxi Tehran, Panahi himself takes to the streets to drive a cab, capturing a collection of conversations with passengers that reveal the mood of the country. It’s nowhere near as heavy as it sounds, shot through with warmth and humour. After walking away with the Golden Bear at Berlin in February, it’s a welcome arrival.
Gangsters and Italy are not exactly a rare phenomenon, certainly not on screen at least. Black Souls, drawn from a novel based on real events, tells a tale of family strife and organised crime in rural Calabria. With dialogue partly in Italian and partly in the local Southern dialect, the plot revolves around a reckless nephew who provokes a feud in his sleepy village. This soon drags in gangster uncles with predictably dire results. There’s nothing new on display here but it comes with a suitable degree of dark tension.
As it’s performed in Welsh, Under Milk Wood, an adaptation of the classic Dylan Thomas play, has been submitted as the British entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards. Whether it gets the nomination is a different matter, but by all accounts it’s a well-made effort with Rhys Ifans in the lead role as the tormented sea captain wracked by dreams of drowned shipmates. Like the other releases this week, it’s a long way from Bond, which might be exactly what you need.
In keeping with the low key theme, why not check out Mr. Holmes on DVD. Ian McKellen is the latest actor to play the iconic detective, this time as a frail old man struggling to recall the details of his last case, a mystery that led him to retire from the crime-solving business. The detecting elements are the weakest part in a film that works best when it focusses on an aging Holmes pottering around his country cottage. There’s nothing explosive going on here. It’s simply nice and gentle entertainment.
After this quiet week, awards season campaigning is back underway when we meet again with lush Irish emigration drama. See you then.