Sept. 23, 2017
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'The Salesman' Review: Slowest of the Slow

Death of an attention span

February 1, 2017, 12:00 am

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) has been the recipient of much praise for his newest movie, The Salesman, but it’s difficult to understand why. We follow Rana and Emad Etesami (Taraneh Alidootsi and Shahab Hosseini), a young couple acting in a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman who unknowingly rent an apartment formerly inhabited by a prostitute. Rana is attacked in their home by a man looking for its former tenant, and Emad sets out to figure out who he was and how to exact revenge. It sounds like a relatively exciting premise, but it plays out as anything but. As the plot unfolds at sub-snail speed and Emad descends further into obsession—even at the potential cost of his relationship with his wife—we can’t help but wonder why they won’t, oh, I don’t know, call the police or something.

Rana seems to be stuck in a shame spiral, not wanting her neighbors or friends to perceive her as weak, and though we might assume this has something to do with cultural translation, it mostly leads to more questions: Why wouldn’t she want support? Why won’t Emad at least try to understand her wishes rather than ignore her at every turn in his own quest for answers? Why would anyone presume to tell an attack victim how to feel? At a certain point, it isn’t even about justice so much as it’s about Emad’s misguided need to slake his revenge thirst, but even as he closes in on the attacker, the pacing is so painfully slow that we simply begin to not care.

The Salesman is currently up for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar but, and we’re just being honest here, that’s a tough pill to swallow given how boring it gets. As of this writing, Farhadi won’t be able attend the Academy Awards thanks to our idiot prezzie, and that’s some serious bullshit. But, if we’re just talkin’ the movie itself here, most people probably won’t like it unless they’re the kind of person who pretends they like boring movies so their friends think they’re smart.


+ Beautifully shot

- Oh my God, it’s so boring

The Salesman
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
With Alidootsi and Hosseini
CCA Cinematheque
125 min.


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