Deaf Crocodile Films — who released the amazing Solomon King on blu ray this year — has also released four feature films by acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Shahram Mokri on demand for U.S. audiences. The four films will be available on Amazon, iTunes and Projectr and tell the stories of aerial killers, kite flyers, vampires and arsonists who disappear into time. You can also buy the blu ray box set from Deaf Crocodile, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome.
Careless Crime (Jenayat-e Bi Deghat) (2020): Inspired by the Cinema Rex fire in 1978 that triggered the Iranian Revolution, this movie follows three different paths: arsonists planning the fire, the students at the cinema interacting with the employees of the theater and the characters on the screen of the movie that played that night. The crime that was committed that night was so horrible that it literally burns through the reality that unites these three storylines.
The night Cinema Rex burned — one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Iran for decades — The Deer was playing. Two women attempt to play that same film in the desert in another storyline as they come across soldiers who have discovered an unexploded munition from another conflict in the past.
The theme of carelessness is carried through by so many in this, as many of the terrorists believed that the audience would just rush out and be unharmed and their message would be heard. Yet the theater manager oversold tickets to the show and his greed is just as responsible for the deaths.
This is a movie that is historical beyond true crime while also telling of the world of film. It may get repetitive and a little long at two hours and twenty minutes, but wow, those last twenty minutes make up for it. You won’t just know about what happened. You will feel it.
Fish & Cat (Mahi Va Gorbeh) (2013): In the Caspian region, students have gathered for a kite-flying event during the winter solstice. Next to their camp is a small hut occupied by three cooks who work at a nearby restaurant, a place that serves human meat on the menu. Meanwhile, the space-time loop within this film both gives away the ending and also makes it seem suspenseful at the same time. And here’s one more thing that makes this break from the pack: The entire movie is one single 140-minute take.
Director Shahram Mokri said, “I like the paintings of Maurits Escher, where you can see a change in perspective in the same visual. In my film, I wanted to give a change in perspective of time in one single shot. So the idea for the film came from his paintings.”
Consider this an Iranian Texas Chainsaw Massacre, yet one where we don’t see the horror of cannibalism yet feel it even more, if that’s possible. What a wild film.
Ashkan, The Charmed Ring And Other Stories (Ashkan, Angoshtar-e Motebarek Va Dastan-haye Digar) (2008): Mokri’s first feature was a black and white comedy about fate that, yes, has the feel of Tarantino yet establishes the director’s own voice as it tells the tales of blind jewel thieves Shahrooz and Reza; Askhan, a man who can’t quite seem to commit suicide, some cops, some hitmen, a young couple who wants to run away to get married, the boy’s angry father, art dealers, two female morgue attendants and, oh yeah, a fish on the loose and a missing ring.
Beyond Tarantino, there are moments that feel like film noir and others that reference Jim Jarmusch. Remember when Crash or Magnolia or any of those post-Quentin movies where everyone’s connected seemed to be every other movie? Sure, this is like that, but it also has an episodic nature and fun edge that makes it stand out from also-rans like Eight Heads In a Duffle Bag.
I know that Mokri made shorts before this, but it’s pretty amazing that this was his first full-length movie.
Invasion (Hojoom)(2017): I can honestly say I’ve never seen another movie like this and it was absolutely astounding.
The sales copy for this describes it as “a science-fiction/detective/vampire story, with nods to stylized 1980s New Wave-era films like Liquid Sky” and yeah, that’s almost as close as I can come to figuring out how to explain it to you.
At some time somewhere in the future, teams of tattooed athletes play a never explained sport in a foreboding and dangerous stadium where a murder has already taken place. The police have been trying to reconstruct the crime over and over again, using the vampiric twin sister of the married man in his place. There’s also a way too long eclipse and a global pandemic happening all at the same time.
I mean, this movie also has the one shot technique of FIsh & Cat while also looking like a grimy 70s science fiction horror movie — Thirst maybe? — along with way too much fog and the red-eyed, face-tattooed and androgynous female vampire Negar gliding through all of this. Did Ali kill her brother, his best friend Saman? What’s up with the way he poses in front of the mirror in the beginning? What’s up with all those no gender mixing warning signs? Were Saman and Negar the same person when it comes down to it or were they really just switching lives and souls? How can an Iranian film made in 2017 feel so much like Jean Rollin or Jess Franco?
And most importantly, why did it take me so long to find this? Absolutely essential.