A good year for women on film, as exemplified in new releases The Eyes of My Mother, Miss Sloane, and more
Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
It begins with an armed robbery at a jewelry store, a shooting, and a suicide — though the single-take camera seems more concerned with the symmetry of the composition and the rectangle of light at the center of the shot than it is with the people inside the store or the crowd of bystanders on the street — before retreating into a flashback and working its way back to the starting point at the very end, with no overlap. You'll have to remember what happened next; you will get no replay. And in spite of all the illumination in the interim, motives for the final act of violence remain opaque; or in other words, open to speculation. Written by Abbas Kiarostami and directed by Jafar Panahi (same division of labor as on The White Balloon), this is a story of dignity and degradation, of haves and have-nots, of whom the latter are principally represented by a pizza deliverer and petty criminal, a big glum blob of a man on a tiny motorbike, medicated for some unspecified reason on cortisone, and wounded to his soul by the hauteur of an upper-crust jeweler when he and his bosom buddy try to palm off a stolen wedding ring. The excitements of the film tend to be small (the shadows of the trees and the play of headlights when the protagonist is detained on his nocturnal rounds by police on a stakeout, or the bad stitching and shapeless cut of his best suitcoat on his return visit to the jeweler), yet they are larger than all the explosions and car chases in all the Die Hards and Lethal Weapons. They are the excitements of awareness and aliveness; a sort of cinematic Cartesianism: I see, therefore I am. With Hussein Emadeddin, Kamyar Sheissi, Azita Rayeji. 2003.