The Past reviews

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Re: The Past reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Nov 24, 2013 7:08 am

Certainly not as good as A Separation, but still more interesting and more intelligent than most movies we get to see these days. And while it's intricately structured and written (there's only one very minor plot hole I think, which is still forgivable in such an elaborate screenplay) its characters feel always believable and very human, in their weaknesses even. And like in the other movie, nobody is "right" or "wrong" - an attitude I always like.

It's also true that unlike in A Separation here you don't get the fascinating and profound portrayal of an "exotic" society. But the film is firmly rooted in the society it's set in - the locations are perfectly chosen (the house especially), and it still says something about the multi-cultural - and even for this reason confused - life of the Paris suburbs.

The acting is generally very good. Bejo is an obviously good actress, and the only problem I had with her in The Artist - that she had a too contemporary face - works very well here - she has the face of a real woman (beautiful, but real). Marion Cotillard, who had been given the role and famously left the movie at the last moment, would have probably been too ethereal. But this is of course an "ensemble" movie, with no stand out.

So its Oscar chances are very limited. It deserves a Best Original Screenplay nomination but won't get it. It should make the nine-semifinalists list, but I'm not sure that it will be nominated for Best Foreign Film. And a win is impossible - if only because its director has already, and so recently, won.

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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Okri » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:10 am

I'll echo Precious' comments.

The film is not as tight, rich or complex as A Separation and it feels more contrived. It feels slightly overlong as well (though that might have been my own annoyance at the film starting late at TIFF). It still has a potent force - no one with Farhadi's plotting ability and interest in human messiness (as D'Angelo put it) would screw this up. And his abilities as a director are not in doubt either - the final shot is heartbreaking and applause worthy (as are other moments)

I was equally impressed with the performances across the board.

In terms of oscar, screenplay is the best bet.

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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:21 am

Like his most recent three films (Fireworks Wednesday, About Elly & A Separation) Asghar Farhadi presents what is at first a seemingly simple story that, as it progress, tackles more complex issues.

However, unlike his Iranian films which where also a critique of Iranian society, this work takes places in a secular society which I felt diminished the impact of the film in comparison with his Iranian films.

Whilst like A Separation, it's beautifully directed, it is a tad too long and should have been tightened up in the middle section. It also rarely soars to the dramatic heights that A Separation does. Whilst A Separation grabbed me from the opening scene and never let me go (and holds up equally well on a second viewing), The Past takes it's time unwinding it's dramatic web in a casual manner. I can't help feeling the Farhadi needed to spend more time fine tuning his screenplay.

Ali Mosaffa grounds the film as he is the calm amongst the gathering storm. Bérénice Bejo plays a far less sympathetic character who seems to never get her act together. Whilst she is impressive in the role I don't think there is anything in her work that really stands out. The most powerful scene in the film doesn't even include Bejo!

Poor Tahar Rahim suffers from a somewhat undeveloped character. He was certainly far more effective in A Prophet & Our Children then in this. The younger children were good though Pauline Burlet as the older daughter was somewhat shrill.

The Past is going to need critics awards and a weak English language line up to gain Oscar nominations, with the most probable being Director & Screenplay. I can't see Bejo making the final five unless the anticipated English speaking actresses (whoever they may be) fail to deliver the goods.

In all fairness to Asghar Farhadi, A Separation was always going to be a hard act to follow and The Past is a worthy enough entry onto his resume.
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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue May 21, 2013 1:39 pm

It would seem currently that Inside Llewlyn Davis and The Past are the more lovingly reviewed films in the festival. If I had to guess, I'd say that The Past seems to be more respected than adored. Maybe a Jury Prize and Best Screenplay for the film.
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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Okri » Mon May 20, 2013 9:29 pm

Sony Pictures Classic picked it up.

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Re: The Past reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Fri May 17, 2013 1:34 pm

Did the reviewer from Hollywood Reporter actually spell Bejo's name "Beho" in parens? That's a phonetic typo if there ever was one.
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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Sabin » Fri May 17, 2013 1:17 pm

Notoriously harsh grader Mike D'Angelo just gave The Past an "A", a review he pretty much never gives. In fact since 2008, he's only given one movie a flat-out "A". A Separation.

EDIT: Okay, Mike D'Angelo has given The Past an "82".
The Past (Farhadi): 82. Farhadi may be the best pure dramatist in the world right now. Theme's a bit blunt here (The Past!); still superb.

It's a "Cannes A" not an official "A". D'Angelo ranks on a numerical level 0 - 100. An "A" is I think 92 up. When he's reviewing films at Cannes and something is an A- or a B+, sometimes he'll just say that essentially it would be an "A" for anybody else.

The AV Club review:

The Past

After rattling off a bunch of big-auteur names in yesterday’s post, I felt the need to parenthetically explain who Asghar Farhadi is, which a couple of commenters apparently found condescending. Sorry, fellas. (I tried to reply directly, but for some reason I can rarely comment on my posts when in France. Keep getting an error message. I do read everything, rest assured.) A Separation was a huge critical hit, and I believe a solid commercial success by foreign-film standards, but I didn’t think Farhadi had yet achieved widespread name recognition. Even if he hasn’t, however, that’s about to change, as The Past, which premièred here this morning, vaults him securely onto world cinema’s A-list. Indeed, Farhadi may be the greatest pure dramatist in the world right now—our closest equivalent to such old-school titans as Chekhov, Ibsen, and Strindberg. As with A Separation, by the midpoint this film, I felt like Tommy Wiseau: “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, ASGHAR!!!”

Turns out he can achieve that effect in any country he likes. The Past takes place not in Iran but in the suburbs of Paris, where Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) has invited her Iranian ex-husband (Ali Mosaffa) to belatedly finalize their divorce, some four years after they split up. Only upon arriving does Mosaffa, who still shares a bond with Bejo’s two young daughters, learn that she’s engaged, although her fiancé (Tahar Rahim) is still technically married to a woman who’s been in a coma for eight months. The precise nature of the incident that resulted in that coma is buried deep at the center of the film’s intricate onion-layer narrative, but The Past doesn’t deal in plot twists for their own sake—it’s another painfully precise disquisition on the overwhelming messiness of human nature, with multiple children caught in the crossfire this time. At times, Farhadi can be a tad blunt in underlining his theme, which is already pretty well foregrounded by the title—there’s no need for exclamations about cars shifting into reverse, for example—and the structural and tonal similarity to A Separation is pronounced enough that The Past lacks the same force of revelation as its predecessor (which, for my money, is the best film of the past decade or so). Nonetheless, this is a magnificent achievement, so dense with the weight of shared history that it’s a wonder it doesn’t collapse into a singularity. Even in the deeply moving final scene, its characters are still being sucked inexorably toward the event horizon.

Grade: A
Last edited by Sabin on Fri May 17, 2013 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Past reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 17, 2013 1:10 pm

Hollywood Reporter (Screen International below)

The Past: Cannes Review
by Deborah Young

The Bottom Line

With his trademark moral complexity, Farhadi delivers an engrossing psychological drama in which children are the victims.

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi pursues his exploration of guilt, choice and responsibility in a superbly written, directed and acted drama that commands attention every step of the way. As in his previous work, the story is set within a family and children are once again the main victims. Here, however, Farhadi’s nearly flawless screenplay foregoes the explosive shocks that electrified Fireworks Wednesday and About Elly and drove A Separation on to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The Past plays like a low-key adagio in the hands of a masterful pianist, who knows how to give every note its just nuance and how every single phrase affects all the rest. A surprisingly dynamic, unsentimental central performance from The Artist’s charming Berenice Bejo should help audiences relate to the tale, which co-stars Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim in fine performances.

Though set in France, the story unfolds entirely in interiors, specifically a rambling house on the outskirts of Paris that is as full of doors and windows as the Tehran apartment of A Separation. At the request of his wife Marie (Beho), from whom he’s been separated for four years, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns from Iran to finalize their divorce. He doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s walking into. Viewers are kept on their toes trying to figure out the tangle of adult relationships, which have left a trail of insecure children in their wake.

Throughout most of the film, Ahmad is the calm, balanced observer who sees everything that’s going on with Marie, her new boyfriend Samir (Tahar Rahim) and the three kids they live with. But even the good psychologist Ahmad holds some surprises in reserve. The children themselves are not innocent, not “free from stain” one might say, to touch on a major plot point. But from Farhadi’s p.o.v. they are always the losers in their parents’ battles.

When Marie picks Ahmad up at the airport, their awkward distance is instantly defined by having them talk through a thick wall of glass. The fact that she’s driving a borrowed car tips Ahmad off that there’s another man in her life, a fact soon confirmed by little Lea and Fouad (Elyes Aguis). Instead of booking him into a hotel, Marie insists he stay in their house, quite an awkward thing with the handsome, morose Samir around. The two men do their best to shuffle civilly through their first meeting at breakfast. The tension in the household, however, gradually rises as ugly truths will out.

Samir runs a dry cleaners not far from the pharmacy where Marie works. Fouad is his son by Celine, his French wife who has been in a coma for eight months. Fouad likes living at Marie’s house with his playmate Lea, despite the fact Marie is nervous and fiery-tempered, realistically going overboard with the kids when they misbehave. Ahmad instead, who turns out not to be anybody’s father, has a wonderfully persuasive way with them, a talent that will draw him deeply into a hidden family drama worthy of Michael Haneke.

He’s particularly close to the 16-year-old Lucie (Pauline Burlet), who has been acting very strangely lately, staying away from the house and brimming over with hostility for her already edgy mom. Marie charges him with finding out what’s wrong with the girl. Reluctantly, but with the skill of a TV detective, Ahmad investigates. There are a few red herrings, like Marie’s sprained wrist, which coupled with her violent temper strongly suggests child beating. Worse than physical violence, however, is the poisonous climate of adult secrets of which the teenage Lucie seems to be a part: why is Samir’s wife in the hospital in a seemingly irreversible coma, for instance, and what is the role played by each of the characters in her tragedy?

The most fascinating thing about the script is written is the way it gradually unpeels motivation without taking sides; in fact, neither Bejo’s unbridled mother and lover, Mosaffa’s distanced outsider who has abandoned the family, nor Rahim’s morose adulterer act outside normal social mores. At the same time, the drama – which in other respects could have been performed as a play -- is brilliantly heightened by the camerawork of D.P. Mahmoud Kalari , lending an intimate intensity and symbolic punch to virtually every scene.


Screen International

The Past

17 May, 2013 | By Lee Marshall

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who lifted a deserved Best Foreign Film Oscar for the remarkable A Separation, delivers another gripping, densely plotted drama of ethics, love and loyalty with The Past. What’s missing is the pressure and jeopardy of the Iranian judicial, political and religious background that made A Separation’s ballet of accusal and counter-accusal more than just a family affair. Central to the story, once again, is a keen feel for the way kids are manipulated and damaged by the crazy stuff we adults do and say, and it’s this sensitivity, more than anything else, that saves the bones of high-concept melodrama from poking through the screen too obtrusively.

Just as in A Separation, the search for the truth keeps getting derailed by fresh revelations and muddied by doubt until we begin to question whether there is one truth about what happened in ‘the past’.

The Past confirms Farhadi as a superb director of actors, drawing a strong performance from The Artist’s Berenice Bejo as an outwardly confident woman torn between two men and gnawed by doubt. But The Prophet’s Tahar Rahim – a quiet, keep-it-all-inside foil to Bejo’s fiery passion - and Iranian actor-director Ali Mosaffa are equally impressive, as are the three child actors.

It’s easy to see why the title has been selling well in the run-up to Cannes: the audience-teasing twists and turns coupled with the presence of Bejo and Rahim will carry it far. But paradoxically, it may not have the shelf life of A Separation, which featured actors unknown to many of those who saw and loved the film. The Past oozes directorial intelligence, and works well as a drama; but it is, quite simply, a less resonant film.

A masterful opening shot shows Bejo’s character Marie trying to attract the attention of Ahmad (Mosaffa) through the glass of an airport arrivals barrier, then attempting to have a conversation across the soundproof window: an eloquent premonition of the unheeded calls for attention and communication failures in the story to come. It turns out that he is her former husband, who returned to Iran four years before, and has come back now to formalise the divorce.

Marie’s insistence that he stays with her and her troubled teenage daughter Lucie (Burlet), is just one of several signs that she is unsure about a closure that she herself has requested – a direct echo of A Separation. Her uncertainty is picked up by Marie’s new partner Samir (Rahin), who most of the time lives at Marie’s with his little son Fouad (Aguis). The first hint that there’s something darker going on than a woman being torn between her old and new man comes when it’s revealed (early enough for it not to be a spoiler) that Samir’s wife is in a coma in hospital following an attempted suicide.

What builds from this point on is a drama-thriller in which, just as in A Separation, the search for the truth keeps getting derailed by fresh revelations and muddied by doubt until we begin to question whether there is one truth about what happened in ‘the past’ – and whether one can ever really lock the latter up (like Ahmad’s old things, a constant presence in the shed at the bottom of the garden) and move on. It’s a subtle, nuanced game with several strands – one of which is the way the script keeps us guessing about which of the three kids in the house, if any, were fathered by Ahmad (the third is Lucie’s outwardly carefree younger sister Lea, played by Jeanne Jestin).

Farhadi makes little details speak volumes: the way Lucie passes Samir the teapot across the dinner table (he can’t take it without burning himself); the way Ahmad helps Marie (who has a sprained wrist) change gear on the way back from the airport; the three times that characters turn back after walking away and closing a door; the fact that Samir works in a dry cleaner’s and Marie in a chemist’s: professions that carry symbolic heft as well as, in Samir’s case, a gradually-revealed link to the plot.

Marie’s cluttered house, where much of the action is set, is also dense with portents and sidelights: the fact that it’s halfway through being redecorated, the way sleeping arrangements define the characters’ rifts and alliances, the fact that it’s in a cul-de-sac that ends in train tracks.

It’s a brilliant piece of cinematic craftsmanship, but at times, our admiration of Farhadi’s art and his actors’ bravura drowns out our belief in a story that feels a little too rootless, too designed for dramatic effect.

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The Past reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 17, 2013 1:03 pm

Farhadi apparently not a one-hit wonder.

Variety

Cannes Film Review: ‘The Past’ May 17, 2013 | 05:27AM PT
Like his Oscar-winning 'A Separation,' Asghar Farhadi's latest is an exquisitely sculpted family melodrama in which the end of a marriage is merely the beginning of something else

Justin Chang
Senior Film Critic@JustinCChang

Asghar Farhadi may have left his native Iran to shoot a picture in Paris starring Berenice Bejo, but in all the ways that count, “The Past” couldn’t feel closer to home. Like 2011′s Oscar-winning “A Separation,” this is an exquisitely sculpted family melodrama in which the end of a marriage is merely the beginning of something else, an indelible tapestry of carefully engineered revelations and deeper human truths. If Farhadi’s sense of narrative construction is almost too incisive at times, costing the drama some focus and credibility in the final reels, he nonetheless maintains a microscopic attention to character, performance and theme that will make this powerfully acted picture a very classy specialty-division prospect.

Few filmmakers today can honestly claim to be working in the Renoir humanist tradition, but “The Past” is a veritable demonstration of the central maxim of “The Rules of the Game,” that everyone has their reasons. As familiar as they are often unpredictable, Farhadi’s finely etched characters are forever revealing new sides of themselves to the camera, pulling the viewer’s sympathies every which way as the human condition is not just examined but anatomized.

All the ingredients of a pressure-cooker scenario are in place at the outset, as Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives in Paris from Tehran to finalize his divorce from wife Marie (Bejo) after a four-year separation. Almost immediately the two start bickering, not entirely in the manner of a couple ready to call it quits, although the various complications that Farhadi gradually reveals, layer by layer, preclude any serious possibility of a reconciliation.

Once the soon-to-be-exes arrive at Marie’s charmingly ramshackle abode on the city’s outskirts, where she lives with two daughters from a prior relationship, Ahmad finds himself embroiled in a nearly untenable situation. Marie’s eldest, sullen teenager Lucie (Pauline Burlet) actively disapproves of her mother’s plans to wed Samir (Tahar Rahim), the latest in a line of boyfriends. Marie’s other daughter, Lea (Jeanne Jestin), and Samir’s son, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), are always scampering underfoot, causing trouble in the harmless but disruptive manner of young tots. In crises big and small, Ahmad is called upon to be a rational, stabilizing force, even as his very presence is a major source of tension.

“The Past” is, in some ways, a curious title for a film that unfolds so urgently and rigorously in the present tense. Farhadi’s script supplies no flashbacks and wastes no time on exposition, instead mining emotion and insight from all the petty resentments and (seemingly) thoughtless remarks that make up everyday existence. And yet the past emerges nonetheless; it’s what the characters, nursing their grudges and regrets, can’t bring themselves to move beyond, and it’s what the meticulously crafted surface of Farhadi’s film reveals despite its inexorable forward momentum.

Per the director’s own description, “A Separation” was a detective story of sorts, devised in such a manner as to frustrate the viewer’s sense of conventional heroism and villainy, as well as to illuminate a particular sphere of contempo Iranian society. Although it lacks its predecessor’s laserlike cultural specificity, “The Past” boasts a similar whodunit element, particularly evident in the ways the characters withhold secrets and information, perpetuating misunderstandings in the name of shielding each other from pain. Still, at least one of the mysteries here, involving Samir’s relationship with his estranged, comatose wife, is distractingly over-contrived.

But even when the script’s underlying machinery reveals itself, the actors remain unimpeachably authentic, the crucial test of which is the fact that every character will probably annoy you at some point. In a performance of bristling intelligence and verbal acuity that may surprise audiences who know only her silent turn from “The Artist,” Bejo embodies a particular brand of hotheaded, hopelessly romantic Gallic femininity without tilting into cliche. Mosaffa is remarkable as a well-intentioned outsider with a melancholy streak, hinting at a history of depression that factors into the story at various points. Rahim emerges later in the proceedings but becomes a prominent and sympathetic figure, in perfect keeping with Farhadi’s highly democratic methods.

The director retains his enormous sensitivity to the feelings and attitudes of emotionally vulnerable children, as well as to the caliber of the actors hired to play them. Burlet, who played a young Edith Piaf in 2007′s “La Vie en rose,” is a revelation as Lucie, providing a quietly reproachful answer to her mother’s shrill bursts of temper. Aguis, too, has heartrending moments as a boy whose awareness of his broken family situation has made him unusually hostile toward authority.

Farhadi’s unobtrusive mise-en-scene is entirely in service of story and character here. Avoiding any remotely touristic views of one of the world’s most beautiful cities, d.p. Mahmoud Kalari (“A Separation”) finds a lovely lighting scheme for the slightly disheveled, peeling-paint interiors the characters inhabit, while Evgueni and Youli Galperine’s score is used, wisely and sparingly, to bookend the action.


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