THE COW (Dariush Mehrjui, 1969)
Mehrjui’s second film, based on a story by co-screenwriter Gholam-Hossein Saedi, is now a generally acknowledged landmark of Iranian cinema, but it was banned at the time because of its stark depictions of poverty in the countryside, which contradicted the Shah government’s efforts to promote Iran as a fully modernized country. When a man’s beloved cow and the pride of the village dies, he suffers a mental breakdown and eventually becomes convinced that he is his own cow. The village also collapses as a result, revealing the tenuous nature of its existence, since this one event manages to completely disintegrate its collective psychological stability. The Cow was smuggled to the 1971 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Critics Award, putting Iranian cinema solidly on the world stage; this allowed a belated release in Iran to great acclaim and popularity. The film also had an unlikely fan in the Ayatollah Khomeini, and The Cow has been credited with saving Iranian cinema from being banned completely after the 1979 revolution.
(November 2, 6pm)