#LFF Review: Taxi Tehran Or Taxi [EDIT – DVD Release Date]

[EDIT – The DVD and Blu-ray release is coming out on February 22nd]

Driving round the streets of Tehran in a taxi fitted with a hidden camera. In my opinion that can either go one of two ways: bum numbingly dull or the ride of your life. Mercifully Taxi Tehran or Taxi is a thoroughly engaging and often hilarious, despite the precocity of Tahani’s position, drive through the streets of Tehran that lifts the veil and shows us that sometimes reality is truly more absurd and stranger than fiction.

We meet a variety of characters: are they actors or real people? Who knows and does it actually matter. The absurdity of real life is stranger than fiction. The freelance mystery man who would string people up for stealing car tyres with the teacher in the back saying what exactly do you do. He looks back and says: a freelance thief. It could be a Jean de La Fontaine fable – forget the hare and tortoise and behold the freelance conservative thief and moderate teacher. Then the old ladies and their goldfish sloshing around in bowl of water that they must ensure doesn’t die before they arrive at their destination. Pahani’s little madam of a niece, Hana, who almost steals the show. The lady with roses and finally, my favourite couple: the “dying” man who laments in his delirium that his wife will only be left with a few turkeys and will be homeless so he must leave a will that Panahi and the dvd seller video on an iPhone. As he is leaving it she starts wailing and he tells her to hush or no one will hear him speak. It is comedy gold and utterly absurd yet simultaneously gut wrenching at the reality the widowed wife might face : it rivals the final inimitable scene of Monty Python‘s Life of Brian as they are singing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

The reason this documentary film works is Panahi. His clandestine direction, he is banned by the authorities, but even with a hidden camera as his attempts to drive around the city pretending to be a taxi driver is incredible. It’s akin to Steven Spielberg or Danny Boyle driving round LA or London with a hidden camera pretending to be a taxi driver picking up customers. He is a master storyteller – providing often hilarious vignettes of everyday Iranian life: the good, bad, absurd and tragic. It reminded me very much of Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – and here on screen Pahani does the same thing – he perfectly constructs a story in 5 to 10 minutes and then turns his attention to something else, in so doing, leaves the viewer wanting to know more. That is the true mark of a master director: short perfectly formed stories are the hardest to tell and Panahi does it so well. Tehran is his city and the social commentary is provided by the city itself: its’ inhabitants. This won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival 2015 and was shown at the BFI London Film Festival 2015.

This is a must see, a gem of a film whether reality or fiction it doesn’t matter. A film made by someone whose passion is storytelling and the risk of prison or detection by the Iranian government won’t stop him from doing what he loves.

Taxi Tehran is released in cinemas across the UK on 30 0ctober 2015.

[EDIT – The DVD and Blu-ray release is coming out on February 22nd]

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