Mohammad Rasoulof’s slow-burn conspiracy thriller A Man of Integrity, a character study about one man’s quixotic struggle to get revenge or monetary compensation after his fish nursery is poisoned by an unnamed corporation, is defined by a righteous kind of fatalism. That tenor is apropos given that the film was shot by Rasoulof in secret, while he waited for his prison sentence of six years—later reduced to one—to be carried out.
Rasoulof’s films, among them the fable-like Iron Island and The White Meadows, have never screened in his native Iran, and maybe never will. They’re caustic yet lyrical allegories that dig deep into the filmmaker’s growing certainty that Iranian society is systemically corrupt and that the only people who try to live by a strict moral code in this context are bound to either regret their stubborn decisions or become crooked themselves.
Conversely, Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, 24 Frames, is more bittersweet than it is flat-out bitter. As Kiarostami passed away shortly before he could finish the project, a collection of four-and-a-half-minute tableaux vivants based on preexisting paintings and photographs, it was left to his son, Ahmad Kiarostami, to complete it based on notes that the auteur left behind. As in A Man of Integrity, a sense of impending doom hangs over 24 Frames, though it also exhibits a refreshing awe for life, and for the gentle passage of time.