British-Iranian director Babak Jalali captures the absurdist details and quiet tragedies of life in a remote Iranian border town in his debut feature Frontier Blues.
Through long, static shots and slow-pacing, Jalali details the lives of four interconnected characters. There is Hassan (Abolfazl Karimi), who goes everywhere with his beloved donkey, his uncle Kazem (Behzad Shahrivari) a clothes store owner who never quite meets his customers’ demands, chicken farmer Alam (Mahmoud Kalteh) who is learning English in the hope that he can one day escape with the woman he loves and a local musician who is mourning the loss of his wife.
In Frontier Blues narrative and dialogue take a back seat to the prevailing tone of melancholy and gentle humour, and while this feels a little stretched over its reasonable running time there are parts which are subtly moving and that skilfully capture the monotony, repetition and loneliness of the characters’ lives. This is a film that is undoubtedly influenced by the work of Scandinavian directors Aki Kaurismäki (Lights in the Dusk, The Man without a Past) and Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor, You, The Living), nonetheless Jalali successfully transfers their trademark deadpan aesthetic to his home country and in the process marks himself out as a confident young director.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 17–Mon 20 Sep.