Since being banned from making films by the Iranian government four years ago, director Jafar Panahi has produced two works of artful defiance. The latter of the two, the self-reflexive, semi-confessional drama "Closed Curtain," finds Panahi weary yet resourceful under severe creative constraints.
Panahi's Iran is a nation of a million small rebellions in the dark and behind closed doors. An unnamed, solitary writer (Kambuzia Partovi, also co-director) shields his remote seaside villa from view with thick, black, grieving curtains so his dog can roam free, albeit only within the house. (Dog ownership is discouraged in Iran as un-Islamic.)
Melika (Maryam Moqadam), a young woman fleeing a police raid on an alcohol-fueled, nighttime beach party, becomes the writer's unwanted guest. She proves a smirking, suicidal sprite who distracts him from completing his project while reminding him of his own precarious political circumstances.
When Melika later rips the curtains off the villa in a silent, sneering fit, Panahi appears as himself, revealing the writer and the woman to be characters in the film he's furtively shooting. The camera never leaves the house, and the plot's introspective arc is likewise tightly focused on Panahi's battle against despair and the characters' roles therein.
"Closed Curtain" is richly allegorical, but the film succeeds even more as an exiled artist's reassurance that the law can't stamp out art.
No MPAA rating; in Farsi with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.