MIFF 2012: “Modest Reception” may warrant little more than just that
Modest Reception (Paziraie sadeh)
Directed by Mani Haghighi
Written by Mani Haghighi and Amir Reza Koohestani
After the end credits and their free-jazz accompaniment had come to a close and the curtains began rolling inwards, I and the pair seated beside me exchanged some quick thoughts about what we thought we had just seen: an oddball Iranian road-film in which Leyla and Kaveh, two variably eccentric and somewhat suspect Tehranis, drive through the dry, wintry countryside with a carload of rial (the chief unit of Iranian currency) stuffed into 260 or so numbered plastic bags, most of which have already been done away with by the time the movie begins. Over the course of the film they attempt to give these millions upon millions of rial away to the various individuals they meet, almost all of whom are lower to working class men. The pair, whose relationship remains unclear thanks to the elaborate lies they concoct to throw any suspicious recipients off their scent, consider themselves to be almsgivers, but have a set of rules by which they must abide: one bag per person, and video evidence of the donation. On a very brief tangent, it is interesting to realise how ubiquitous the iPhone has become such that the repeated presence of one in a film barely registers as product placement. Returning to the task at hand, the pair beside me expressed reserved positivity about the film. What it was exactly that they liked about the film is up for speculation. I suspect it was the semi-novelty of the film’s premise combined with the surprise of seeing chicly-dressed Iranians flinging engagingly scripted profanities at one another and behaving with a recklessness and near nihilism seen more commonly in a certain breed of Western film and less commonly in the rather socially conscious work that epitomises the current Iranian cinema.