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Wednesday, April 25,2012

The screening room

Connect with the superb Oscar-winning 'Separation'

by James Sanford

(Note: After this week's City Pulse was published, the booking of "A Separation" at Celebration Lansing was canceled. We will let you know if the film is rescheduled.)

When tragedy strikes, we often look for someone to blame. Who was responsible? Who was negligent? Who’s the victim?

The engrossing, fascinatingly detailed Iranian drama “A Separation” reminds us that pointing fingers can be very risky business indeed. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi argues that the workings of the world are so tricky that simple solutions and easy answers are often hard to find.

The film, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film earlier this year, provides us with a picture of Iranian life that might surprise many Westerners. The women may wear chadors or head scarves, but they are not always subservient and they are certainly not silent: In fact, the movie opens in a judge’s chambers, where Simin (Leila Hatami), a strong-willed mother who wants to leave Iran with her daughter, is challenging her husband, Nader (Peyman Moaadi). Disgusted by Nader’s refusal to honor her wishes, Simin leaves him, the first of several separations in “A Separation.”

That forces Nader to find someone to look after his elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s disease and requires near-constant attention. Enter Razieh (Sareh Bayat), who is trying to provide for her family while her husband, Houjat (Shahab Hosseini), is out of work. What could have been a mutually beneficial arrangement takes a terrible turn as a series of unwise choices and misunderstandings lead to accusations and violence.

Farhadi refuses to simplify the situation by drawing a clear-cut “bad guy”: Razieh and Nader are each flawed in their own ways, allowing stress and anger to cloud their decision making. The ghastly situation that results from their clash is as provocative as it is heartbreaking because there is fault on both sides. Complex and splendidly acted, “A Separation” is a powerhouse domestic drama, a first-rate mystery and a superb piece of cinema.

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