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Directed by Babak Jalali
Iran | UK | Italy  200
9

 

This is the debut feature film written and directed by the Iranian born Babak Jalali, presented as a world première in August 2009 at the 62nd Locarno International Film Festival.

FRONTIER BLUES features 4 intertwined stories all set in Iran's northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs.

This film looks at fragments from the everyday existence of several characters that reside in this region. It was written based on what I saw, what I heard and what I did. It’s about the Northern Iranian Frontier. It’s the story of longing, waiting, remembering, desperate men and absent women. It’s about not quite getting there. Wherever that may be… said the director who was born there.

Alam is a 28 year-old Turkmen man who lives with his father and works on a chicken farm. He is teaching himself English in order to marry a girl called Ana and take her to Baku. Hassan is a 28 year-old Persian man who lives with his uncle. His only companions are his pet donkey and a tape player.  Kazem, Hassan’s uncle, owns a clothing store but the clothes he tries to sell never seem to fit anyone.  A 55 year-old Turkmen minstrel is the subject of a book of photography by a photographer from Tehran. His wife was kidnapped by a shepherd in a green Mercedes many years ago. FRONTIER BLUES features non-professional actors from Golestan, the Northern region of Iran, where the film was shot.

Excerpt from Artificial Eye website located HERE

***

The pathos of a declining macho culture is captured in all its taciturn insignificance in Babak Jalali’s offbeat debut. However, in dwelling on the soul-crushing repetitiveness of life on the Turkmen-Iranian border, Jalali generates his own ennui, as he fails to provide much insight into the principals or their morose steppe existence. The focus is divided between slow-witted donkey owner Abolfazl Karimi, his outfitter uncle Behzad Shahrivari, restless chicken farmer Mahmoud Kalteh and testy minstrel Khajeh Araz Dordi. But, while Dordi’s encounter with a patronising Tehran photographer raises a few smiles and Kalteh’s dream of marrying a local girl is achingly melancholic, too little happens at too slow a pace to engross.

Excerpt from EmpireOnline located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 11th, 2009 - Locarno Film Festival

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Artificial Eye Film Company - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:33:15 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Persian | Turkmen (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, (burned-in)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Heydar - an African in Iran (18:15)
• Trailer (1:30)

DVD Release Date: November 8th, 2010

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

I very much appreciated the humor leanings in Frontier Blues and also re-found my previous complaint of much of the Iranian cinema that I see - the films identify the issues - usually in a unique poetic manner - but avoid offering solutions. This, shamefully, allows me to find amusement - even in the melancholy circumstances. In this way I might even compare it to Zhang Yimou's The Story of Qui Ju - in subtly ridiculing cultural stays. Only it's not so subtle here - bordering on flat out parody interspersed with a few majestic static shots. But, honestly there is a lot here I enjoyed. I found the, deliberately paced, storytelling kind of fresh and unique.

This is probably the only print Artificial Eye were given (judging by the imposed subtitles and flat, analog-representative, bitrate) but thankfully it looks fine - dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic in and around 1.85:1. There is noise - it has some surprising damage/speckle marks - especially notable in the beginning but it didn't hurt my presentation. Colors are fine - this is an acceptable if imperfect looking film. Good news I don't see any flagrant digital manipulation. Anyway, I had no strong complaints overall.

Audio is 2.0 channel unremarkable but close, I'll wager, to the way it was produced. As stated the subtitles are burned-in (non-removable). Good news again that I don't see excessive manipulation and the image is fairly clean. The SD-DVD disc is PAL and region free.

As an extra we get Heydar - an African in Iran - an 18-minute short by Babak Jalali from 2005 and may have been the first draft of Frontier Blues. It's very good and as you wish it was longer - you, indeed, get the feature film. There is also a trailer.

The DVD is typical of Artificial Eye - solid effort transferring a lesser exposed film to a new, appreciative, audience. I didn't know what to expect before giving this a spin and had a great time laughing out loud at times and being impressed with a substantial, weightiness below the surface. I know a few people I can lend this too who will also like it a lot. Thumbs up! 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Artificial Eye Film Company - Region 0 - PAL



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