Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Women Without Men: Behind the Scenes

I keep musing about Shiran Neshat's Women Without Men (2009), made in collaboration with Shoja Azari, based on the 1990 novella by Shahrnush Parsipur and set in Iran in 1953. All the stranger because 1953 is the exact same time frame for the movie discussed in yesterday's post, Next Stop, Greenwich Village. In both films, things are happening against the global backdrop of the Cold War. This is manifested by the Rosenberg executions on June 19, 1953 in the one and in the other, the 28 Mordad coup d'état  (aka "Operation Boot") of August 19, 1953.
The DVD version of Women Without Men (at least the one I saw) includes extras, all interesting. There are samples of other work by Shiran Neshat and Azari, there's a "Behind the Scenes" mini-documentary, and also a Q & A at the Walker Art Center (in Minneapolis) taped on April 16, 2010, featuring Neshat and Azari, both of whom are sharply articulate.  

Here's my jumble of additional notes -- many phrases are direct quotations or paraphrases from Shiran Neshat and Shoja Azari that I jotted down while watching the DVD "extras."
Magic-realism (magical realism)
Parallels, cinematographer Martin Gschlacht
Naturalistic, power of the image
Tableaus -- while keeping the thread of the story
Tracking shots, blocking shots, resurrection shot, from the earth into a pool –
She is a ghost going into the water
Archival footage to recreate the iconic look of the time -- 1953
She could see everyone but they couldn’t see her
Highly stylized film
Party convergence at end
Displacement and exile
Two realistic characters and two unworldly characters
Jesus-Mary Magdalene evocation
Three classes of society
Lower, middle (traditional) and upper
Encompasses worldly and unworldly, political and spiritual
Struggle for survival
Universal connections
A study of the anatomy of a patriarchy
Burden, “patriarchy is at the core of despotism in Iranian society”
The dilemma of freedom
Changes to novella
Munis conceptual -- novella more as stories
A world – inner and outer worlds
Tehran 1953 / timeless garden/orchard  Eden / sanctuary, could be life after death
Orchard/garden exile/refuge, uncanny/otherworldly
1953 coup and installation of the Shah by UK and US --- Pivotal moment laying groundwork for Islamic Revolution of 1979
A remembrance of pre-coup Iran
Politicians live by discontinuity
“if you don’t have any location in history you wouldn’t know” the context – the present situation anywhere seems eternal but it is not, it's based in history and subject to change, differing perceptions
Iran was more cosmopolitan, connected to the world culture -- this has been decimated by the '79 Revolution and its aftermath

Film shot in Morocco
Nomadic artists (Shiran Neshat, Shoja Azari, Shahrnush Parsipur, and many others) because denied basic human rights in Iran
Command and clarity, closer to truth – artists still living in country
Hybrid artists – memory, removed from source
Iran in 1953, a nation struggling for egalitarian democracy
Balanced approach
Radio as symbol
Farsi language
Imagery rooted in Persian Islamic literature, art -- and Western (such as Ophelia)
Divided between two worlds
Nomads – a state of in between
An otherworldly place is the orchard garden
Next project may include The Palace of Dreams (Albanian setting)
Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.   


Charles Gramlich said...

there are a number of these interesting movies that would probably be well worth my time to see. I often wish there was more time to do so.

WAS said...

I love these aphoristic notes - it brings the blood into my living room. I've been really wanting to see this one.