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Cafe Setareh (2006) @ کافه ستاره

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At a glance:
Almost a noir, this is yet another feministic foray into filmmakin from Iran, this time with bleaker consequences. Recallin storytellin techniques from 1994's Pulp Fiction (alright, I'm kiddin! and themes from The Hours, (2002) one finds the three women in the titular cafe to be at once interestin because they could be anybody in downtown Tehran - a old cafe manageress, a middle-aged landlady and a young, dreamy girl dyin for some excitement in her life. Story is told in three parts, each section headed by the three women's names; Fariba, Salome and Molook. Some melodrama is on offer but the progression in Cafe Setareh is captivatin if you are interested in how each of the embattled women deal with their problems in their very own way. Old hag Fariba (Afsaneh Baygan) is willingly extorted daily by her gangster husband, just so she could enjoy the dubious honour of lettin it be known that she is married - gulp! Fortysomethin Molook (Roya Teimourian), itchin to don a weddin veil, stoops very low to try and secure herself a young man for marriage instead of expandin her business. Virginal Salome on the other hand, contemplates marriage to a truly detestable man when her original lover is away in jail, just because she doesn't want to disappoint a father who wants to see her married. Bad, bad men!
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Such is the slow-burnin oppression that pervades the drama. Are there solutions being offered? The women in Cafe Setareh hack it out in an urban jungle among disillusioned men, sometimes to carve some sort of meanin into their lives but often just to get to the next day. The film thankfully avoids didactic sympathy baits and can be commended for having the good sense to shock viewers with some unlikely turns. Yet, while bein technically accomplished, it rarely rises to the level of entertainment that can go down as truly memorable.
Perennial wonderment:
Can someone introduce to me an Iranian movie that's "American", so to speak?
Most memorable line:
Fariba: "Yes, let the neighbours know my husband is beatin me up. At least they know I have a man."
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I feel very unqualified and perhaps hypocritical for judgin this piece of work. I mean, who the fuck am I to judge a country and its standards, especially when I ain't stepped foot in it? However, as a film, perhaps the Iranian industry (?) can congratulate their movies for now havin equalled if not surpassed production standards of many non-first world countries. Cafe Setareh is a strong testament to that distinction. ★★★
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