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“Tehran Taboo” Movie Review by Daniel Barnes

Tehran Taboo film

Tehran Taboo (2018; Ali Soozandeh)


By Daniel Barnes

Iranian-born German filmmaker Soozandeh makes his feature debut with this rotoscope-animated ensemble drama about young adults searching for some measure of freedom in their extremely restrictive society.

The serpentine story slinks around some tenuously connected city dwellers: ex-addict Pari, a mother pushed into prostitution when her convict husband refused to grant a divorce; her neighbor Sara, newly pregnant but still seeking work against the wishes of her husband; and musician Babak, whose drug-fueled carnal encounter with bride-to-be Donya leaves them both searching for creative solutions to her lack of virginity.

Sexual hypocrisy hangs over every character like the blade of a guillotine.  We see authorities round up and arrest unmarried couples holding hands in public, yet a soulless prostitution trade thrives at the highest and lowest levels of society.  From the opening POV shots inside a car driving through a bleak and snowy Tehran, Soozandeh establishes a mood of bitter melancholy.  The rotoscoping technique, in which animation gets traced over live-action footage, only heightens that feeling.

There are quibbles – the story is far from airtight, the ending feels forced and the characters often seem inauthentic – but between Tehran taboo and Have a Nice Day, 2018 already looks like a solid year for grown-up animation.

Read more of Daniel’s reviews at Dare Daniel and Rotten Tomatoes, and listen to Daniel on the Dare Daniel podcast.