Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cinestudio review of “Facing Mirrors” and “Loose Cannons”



This week, Cinestudio hosted the 14th annual EROS Film Festival. The festival is a week-long event in which movies chosen by Outfilm CT are showcased on Cinestudio’s magnificent screen. The movies serve to promote awareness about different issues that are pertinent to the LGBT community through the power of film and story-telling.

After reading the blurbs about each film, two in particular piqued my interest; the Iranian film, “Facing Mirrors” (Negar Azarbayjani, 2011) and the Italian film, “Loose Cannons” (Ferzan Ozpetek, 2010).

Negar Azarbayjani, an Iranian director, experiences his feature film debut in “Facing Mirrors.” The movie tells the story of two women in Iran; both from wildly different backgrounds dealing with their own separate issues.

Rana (Qazal Shakeri) is a devoted wife who takes up the risky job of being a female taxi driver after her husband, Sadegh, is swindled out of a great deal of loaned money and consequently sent to a debtor’s prison. Rana takes up this unsavory occupation on the side in order to acquire the amount of money needed to maintain her livelihood. She is primarily driven by her desire to provide a stable life for her son, yet she is adamant in upholding high moral standards and won’t stand for compromising her dignity in the process.

Adineh (Shayesteh Irani) is, in some ways, the perfect opposite to Rana. As the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Adineh is privileged to some freedoms that most women in Iran don’t share. She has never struggled financially. However, in place of financial issues, Adineh is plagued by identity problems. Adineh is a trans-man, meaning that she was born a woman but believes that her true gender is male. She had begun referring to herself as “Eddie” and taking hormone treatments in preparation for a sex-alteration surgery before her family learned of her plan and stopped her in her tracks. Her family, which consists of her brother and father, know of her feelings towards her gender identification but are deeply ashamed and incapable of accepting the truth of the matter. Her father believes that she can be “cured” of her “affliction” if she is married off to her male cousin; an arrangement that ultimately drives Adineh to run away.

Rana and Adineh cross paths as the poor working woman becomes the driver for the rich escapee. Adineh is drawn to Rana’s innocence, immediately trusts her, and offers to pay a handsome sum in exchange for being escorted to freedom. Rana wearily accepts, but is later horrified when she first learns of Adineh’s true nature. However, through a series of events that take place over the course of the next few days, the two share experiences which bring them closer to understanding, and to friendship.

For the first ten minutes, I found the plot quite convoluted and oddly difficult to follow. However, once the storyline was clarified, I was unwaveringly captivated; and at some moments, I was even moved to tears. As a director, Azerbayjani does an incredible job of displaying the many nuances of a developing friendship in a matter of a few days. There is an organic tone to the movie that is due in part to both the subtle direction, and the chemistry between the two main actresses. The burgeoning friendship between Rana and Adineh is portrayed so naturally and beautifully by both Shakeri and Irani that it appears nearly effortless.

What ultimately makes “Facing Mirrors” a beautiful film is its dedication to simplicity. Some of the most riveting moments of the film are long scenes in which both characters are merely speaking with one another; struggling to define what it really means to be “whole” and to be in love. These moments make up the fabric of the storyline that holds the film together, and sets it apart as not just a work of art, but a work of beauty and humanity.

The second film that I had the pleasure of viewing was the Italian film “Loose Cannons.” The film was directed by Ozpetek and as a dark comedy, it had a much different feel than “Facing Mirrors.”

The film is driven by a twisted plot that takes large, winding turns, and consists of a plentiful slew of characters. In the beginning, we are introduced to the main character, Tomasso (Riccardo Scarmarcio) a student in Rome who, upon returning to his hometown of Lecce, makes up the decision to finally come out to his homophobic family after living many years in the closet.

However, certain events occur that prevent Tomasso from coming clean about his true identity. Instead, he finds himself caught in an odd limbo; unsure of who to please and how to proceed. The many characters in his family are open and boisterous regarding their opinions about everything, and Tomasso seems to become even more muddled in thought as the film progresses. His seemingly solidified sexual orientation is even brought into question as he befriends the sexy and mysterious Alba (Nicole Grimaudo) and starts to neglect his relationship with his boyfriend, Marco, who is back in Rome.

In “Loose Cannons,” the plot is unclear at times, but never boring. Ozpetek and his actors do an excellent job of bringing to life all the passion and chaos of an authentic Italian family in a truly humorous manner. In true Italian spirit, most of the drama takes place at the dinner table; with large sweeping shots that highlight the quirks and nutty characteristics of each family member.

“Cannons” is witty and intelligent, but does not sacrifice the abundance of laugh-out-loud moments. Though the film is smart and bright, it is also purely funny; a feat that is difficult to truly achieve for more serious comedies.

Ozpetek’s film is a sincerely delightful film to watch that excuses itself from being almost too open-ended by being immensely entertaining. For anyone looking for an aesthetically pleasing comedy, that gains humor in translation, I highly recommend “Loose Cannons.”

In watching “Cannons” and “Mirrors” it brought up interesting nuances of sexual orientation within the context of different cultures. It was interesting to truly see the differences in culture, and then evaluate both themes within my own culture.

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