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Archive for December 13, 2012

2012: Happy Iranians Are All Alike

I already reviewed Argo here but below are some thoughts.

If you follow me on Twitter, you would have noticed that I was making fun of Ben Affleck’s Argo even before I saw it. But sitting in the theatre, its first few images are storyboards just like the ones in the fictional science fiction film that was never going to get made. And those boards reminded me of Persepolis. If you’re a smug liberal with an HBA in English Lit, you’ve probably breezed through Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel about the early years of the Islamic Revolution. And I find myself saying shit like “Obama, Bibi and Harper shouldn’t put sanctions on Iran because nobody understand Iran like I do!” Ah, to have been rich enough to visit pre-Revolution Iran, or Afghanistan before the Soviets came, or Iraq before Saddam sold out and turned his country into a Terry Gilliam movie (Also, looking up Baghdad on Wikipedia makes me want to visit it). Nobody understands the Middle East like I do. (Also, can someone hook me up with the sequel, please?)

(the Sofia Coppola shot)

Persepolis and Argo have two major differences. Unlike Persepolis, Argo has a clearer outline of the power transitions within Iran decades before the Revolution. I’m not faulting Satrapi for this. Yes, there are references to Iran’s general history of conquests and a fictionalized account of the Pahlavis’ rise to power, but it’s more naturalistic that a fictional version of her ten-year old self not to have known who Mossadegh was. he second major difference is that Persepolis shows the perspective of a young Zoroastrian girl. Argo, however, just assumes that there are two kinds of people in Iran – the people of indeterminate faith who want to leave and the crazy Muslims beating on the American embassy’s doorstep.

Argo is a clown car of character actors but for me it has four MVPs. The first is Clea Duvall, who plays Cora Lijek. Duvall is an alterna-teen post riot-grrl sensation and is my spirit animal. In other words, a poor man’s Chloe Sevigny, but better. In one of the dinner conversations in the Canadian embassy (why did Canada have to shut that down? I smell fish) she actually defends the Revolution’s perspective in a way that Pahlavi shouldn’t be granted asylum in the States and should face a trial in the country he oppressed. The second is Sheila Vand, who plays Sahar. I mistakenly thought as a ‘ethnic girl,’ this was her acting debut and that she’ll never get a role like this again. Actually, she has played de facto Iranian intepreters in a pre-Homeland Damien Lewis show in NBC, a soft-core porn model and a pot smoking rebellious teenager. The third is Scoot McNairy, a mane that David Foster Wallace would have had fin with he the latter was still alive. Yes, he was a whiny little bitch for most of the movie but he redeems himself in the airport. Of course, my choices of MVPs imply that I prefer the Tehran storyline over the Langley/Hollywood ones, despite of how good John Goodman is, my fourth MVP.