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A bet gone wrong: "Scorsese-inspired" Iranian movie about gambling is so protracted and repetitive that it's barely watchable - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


Davood (Mirsaeed Molavian) and Aziz (Mojtaba Pirzadeh) are two young friends obsessed with football and horse racing. They passionately follow every Fifa match on a large television monitor and attend equestrian events, consistently betting and winning large sums of money at both games. This is a far more profitable occupation than the average retail job. They operate with a small circle of equally enthusiastic friends. They never shy away from violence, and even the prospect of death does not intimidate them.

At 135 minutes, this is the second longest film in the Official Competition of the 24th PÖFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (from an otherwise impressive selection of 26 movies from every corner of the planet), one of the most ambitious and by far the least accomplished. The plot is so convoluted that I could barely follow it (and after 30 minutes I frankly lost all interest). The characters talk, shout at each other and prance around virtually non-stop, the electronic sound score is both invasive and pervasive, while the violent scenes are poorly staged and the editing tricks hardly original. A sequence where a bag of money passes from one hand to the next is particularly cringeworthy in its intended technical wizardry. The entire experience is simply excruciating.

And it isn’t just the duration and the pace of this movie that deserve criticism. Its portrayal of women is awful. It hardly passes the Bechdel test: Davood’s girlfriend Eileen and Aziz’s unnamed partners are the only females in this extremely long movie with any significant lines. But Aziz walks off when his girlfriend starts talking presumably because she’s talking too much. Davood beats up his partner, only for one of the boys to tell her the next day: “If he hit you, that’s probably because you’ve done something to deserve it”. And that’s it, there’s no attempt at redemption. This toxic masculinity should be challenged, instead the director seems keen to celebrate it.

In a virtual Q&A prior to the film premiere, the director explained that he was inspired by “Scorsese’s movies from the 1970s”, but – except for the high amount of testosterone – I see no connection to classics such as Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976). The director also clarified that the film title has a double significance: it’s name of the currency of Iran and it also sounds like “two men”. Wow, the originality of the wordplay just gave me goosebumps. Pretentious, boring and pointless. Stay away from it.

Tooman just saw its international premiere at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, as part of the Official Competition.

By Victor Fraga - 27-11-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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