A yellow cab is driving through the vibrant and colourful streets of Tehran. Very diverse passengers enter the taxi, each candidly expressing their views while being interviewed by the driver who is no one else but the director Jafar Panahi himself. His camera placed on the dashboard of his mobile film studio captures the spirit of Iranian society through this comedic and dramatic drive…
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★★★★★ review by Chris Elena on Letterboxd
I think my heart exploded with joy maybe 18 times throughout Panahi's TAXI.
But that moment with the woman handing a rose to the audience..
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
I no longer understand exactly what the strictures placed on Panahi amount to, given that he can apparently drive all over Tehran picking up actors. Still, given the potential for an entirely cab-set film to be even more claustrophobic than his last two, it's kind of exhilarating to see him working overtime to entertain. The first half, in particular, verges on rapid-fire sketch comedy, with a new passenger introducing a new complication every few minutes; Panahi aggressively eschews the naturalistic lulls and longueurs that Kiarostami favors in moving vehicles, keeping things sharp and snappy. Despite all the welcome showmanship, however, at its core this is yet another movie complaining (understandably) about Iranian film censorship, and the home stretch gets a tad whiny à la Closed Curtain. Having a cute little girl read the country's super-sized Hays Code aloud, and then struggle herself to shoot a film (on her phone) that doesn't violate it, does at least put a humorous spin on the self-pity, for which I'm grateful. But if he can make this, surely he can make a movie that's not about his inability to make a movie.
★★★½ review by matt lynch on Letterboxd
★★★★½ review by Debbie on Letterboxd
Jafar Panahi’s Tehran Taxi is an astonishing and heart-warming film, made particularly special after learning of Panahi’s international reputation as a director banned from making films by his country. Its documentary-like style contextualises Panahi’s desire to showcase a reality in a cinematic space, the very act restricted by the censorship imposed upon Iranian cinema. While it commentates on critical political discourse, Panahi’s secretly-made illegal venture is funny, surprisingly light-hearted and exceptional.
The opening take of the film sets the tone of Tehran Taxi – and offers a glimpse of Tehran through the windscreen of a taxi. It is a patient take, of people crossing the road, activities on the side of the streets – the normal hustle and bustle of a city. Through a camera on his dashboard, which he disguises as a ‘surveillance camera’, Panahi drives a taxi through the city, picking up passengers on the way.
Of these passengers, is a bootlegger of American films claiming he sold Once Upon a Time in Anatolia to Panahi himself, an injured man with his wife, a pair of women who obsess over the spirituality of releasing their fish into a lake, and Panahi’s own niece, who is attempting to craft her own short film for class. Some of these characters seem as absurdist as they sound, but Panahi presents them as part of the optimistic spirit of the city of Tehran. The role of Panahi’s niece is especially intriguing – she is instructed to make a film which avoids 'sordid realism', listing a set of rules, which must be followed – censorship rules which have limited Panahi’s freedoms as a film-maker. The alternation between his niece’s shaky camera, to his more-steady yet still amateur taxi dashboard camera, makes intellectual insights on the effects of censorship upon the fabrication of real-life situations.
Tehran Taxi’s verge on documentary realism offers commentary on the way Iranian cinema limits authentic representation. Even when lines are blurred between fiction and reality, the film is soaked in authenticity, which makes Panahi’s effort both touchingly entertaining, and hopeful for a time when he will be able to make films and travel the world freely.
Full review published here: www.arts.unsw.edu.au/newsroom/opinion/unsw-sff-blogger-review-tehran-taxi/
★★★★½ review by Redfern on Letterboxd
I wasn't expecting it to be, but this was absolutely fantastic; seriously, since the 70's, I don't think there has been a national cinema as consistently innovative as Iranian cinema. Expect a full review of this near masterpiece in a few months time where I'll tell you why it's the best film of 2015.
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