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As daytime caregiver for the old man, Nader hires the traditionally clad Razieh. A weary mule of endurance (Sareh Bayat is outstanding), she is not only pregnant but pressured by her unemployed husband, who is prone to macho violence and verbal pieties. Razieh’s darling girl tags along, and her consuming eyes are the innocent mirror — along with those of the grandfather and endearingly worried Termeh — of mounting desperation. This involves threats from the hothead husband (Shehab Hosseini, frightening but human).

A Separation is in the Jean Renoir tradition of “everyone has their reasons.” Director-writer Asghar Farhad never sits in judgment. We absorb the truths intimately from actors so transparently truthful and free of mannerisms that we could almost think this is a documentary. There is a visible subtext: the misogyny of the Islamic Republic, which has embedded in its pious laws and politics a civil war between men and women.

Oscar buzz: I am not dazed by the Oscar nominations announced Tuesday. What did daze me was the Los Angeles Times’ full-page ad (January 15) for its glam-crazed awards section, The Envelope, blithely equating George Clooney and Cary Grant. That night, gilding the comparison, Clooney did a swinging-penis joke at the Golden Globes. Grant, by the way, was not a Globes guy. He lost five times and was never nominated for his best work.

Newsreel: Great boxer Joe Frazier died at 67 on November 7, 2011, and the San Diego Black Film Festival opens its tenth run on Thursday (January 26) with Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears, a documentary by Mike Todd (no, not Liz Taylor’s Mike Todd). Over 100 movies, mostly shorts, are in the downtown event for four days, plus panels, mixers, parties. Check it out at sdbff.com.

Reviewed in the movie capsules: Addiction Incorporated, The Dead, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, Haywire, Man on a Ledge, Red Tails, Underworld: Awakening.

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Comments

Javajoe25 Jan. 26, 2012 @ 7:07 a.m.

Let's be honest: anyone who looks at Glen Close for one minute and thinks she is a man must be on drugs. That film presumes the audience is willing to go along with the charade for the sake of the movie, but I just felt like I was participating in some childish nonsense the whole way through. What a farce.

As for "Separation," I told my friend Parviz, an Iranian immigrant not to go see the film as it will only make him feel embarrassed for his countrymen.

While I found the subject matter of the film interesting enough, the peculiar behavior of the characters, between phoning mullahs to see if it was a sin to cleanse a dirty man, and slapping oneself because of the shame brought on by the wife's behavior, caused me to feel I was watching a travelogue film about some bizarre, primitive people, disconnected from the modern world, and far removed from any education or science.

Some may want to raise Hoo-Ha's for such a film even being produced by an Iranian company, but I suspect the film maker knew part of the success of the film would be due to the rest of the world being given a glimpse of what life is really like in a culture that adheres to 7th century beliefs. It is unique; but is it really good?

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Jan. 26, 2012 @ 12:44 p.m.

I've got to disagree, JavaJoe. Glenn Close is near the top of the list of Famous Actresses with Man Faces.

FAMF's foundress and Immortal Icon, of course, is Joan Crawford. That woman had the manliest mug on her.

Just last night, I caught a bit of Fatal Attraction, and boy did Glenn look like a dude with teased 80s hair.

Katherine Hepburn was a card-carrying FAMF member.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Jan. 26, 2012 @ 1 p.m.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Hillary Swank are man-faced, too.

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David Elliott Jan. 26, 2012 @ 1:17 p.m.

Scott: you're welcome. Javajoe: In picking apart A Separation, you somehow missed the movie. It is grounded closely on real Iranian life, though with some credible short-cuts for dramatic effect. The movie is not unique. It carries forward a great modern tradition of factually rooted but inspired, low-budget Iranian films, some brave enough to make the director (notably Jafar Panahi) a victim of official repression. Go to Kensington Video and ask Guy to rent you some of the fine Iranian works (I'd recommend Offside, The Apple, Taste of Cherry, to name only a few). Joaquin: Man-faced? Is that in the exalted hip tradition of "man whore" and "manimal"? At this rate of progress, we may soon be back to referring to gay men as nancy boys. DE

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Javajoe25 Jan. 26, 2012 @ 2:40 p.m.

I don't know what you guys are looking at, but if you think Hillary Swank has a man-face, then I don't know what to tell you. Hillary is a doll. A bit androgynous, but still, a cutie.

I will admit there is nothing especially feminine about Glenn Close's face, but it is still far, far from being convincingly manly, or even slightly masculine. Let's be honest; the poor woman has a face like a proboscis monkey--but it's still not a man's face.

They may give her an Oscar for "Being Albert," but I still think the entire film is based on "Let's make believe".

David, as for "Separation," I didn't miss the movie; I sort of wish I had...but..and this is not to take anything away from those who risk their lives making movies, but, to say a film that presents a view of everyday life in Iran is good because it does...well, that's like saying the current reality shows like "Swamp People," or "Ragin'Cajuns" should get awards for their view of life in that part of Loosi-anna. Seriously? And what about that ending? The primary question throughout the film is left hanging? For us to resolve, no doubt. The "Artistic" finish. Give me a break.

Look, I would like to see things open up in Iran and all the artists there be free to show the world they too have rich imaginations, and are equally capable of presenting truly profound works, of a rich and complex beauty that only their culture can provide...but let's not lower the bar and claim certain films are extraordinary simply because they were made at all.

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David Elliott Jan. 26, 2012 @ 11:48 p.m.

Javajoe, My review does not say that A Separation is a good movie simply because it has a realistic base. The stresses and loyalties of the people are wonderfully expressed, the layering is complex, and no one is turned into a stark villain, even the macho hothead who hides behind Islamic piety. You need to see some of those Iranian films, among the best in the world during the last 15 or so years. Enjoy. DE

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