Thursday, 5 November 2015

REVIEW - TAXI (JAFAR PANAHI)


Observing an entire nation through a taxi window - Jafar Panahi has few choices, and he presents us with equally few in this playful, profound piece on Iranian identity. Panahi's intention is clear, perhaps too clear, given that his exuberance here contributes toward a heavy-handed touch that calls unnecessary attention to Taxi's construction and purpose. As he toys with the standard construction of film, adding vital structural layers to a project whose nature would normally repel such complexity, Taxi becomes a richer, more interactive film than the didacticism in its delivery. It becomes an essay on perception, principally for the viewer to unpick as each responds to their own perception on what Panahi presents herein. His cinema takes place in a cheap cab; ours takes place in a space that's considerably smaller yet far more expansive - the mind. We're guided through our guide's perception, then, of the country that he has known and may (or may not) wish to know no longer; allusions and symbolism place too great a weight on the film, and its delicate construction begins to sag. Yet there remains more to Taxi even in this regard, as Panahi loosens his grip on our interpretation and permits a touch of obliqueness to shade his scenarios, most gratifyingly. If obliqueness is replaced with the return of obviousness for the film's final image, it's no concern: Panahi packs this last shot with more content than most entire films, and with such concision too! Taxi becomes a genuinely profound film by its end, not only in observing a nation through a taxi window, but by virtue of allowing an audience to observe this nation at all.