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Review: Offside

Keith Uhlich




It’s unlikely that Jafar Panahi will ever make an aesthetically uninteresting movie and his latest work, Offside, certainly doesn’t lack for striking images. Most memorable: The moment where one of the unnamed girls who make up the film’s ensemble shrouds herself in a gender-bending chador, obliterating her male disguise in one quietly defiant instant. It’s catchy, but in context it means next-to-nothing beyond the most schematic of observations. Panahi is so concerned with a particular social problem (a law that forbids women to enter Iran’s spectator-sporting facilities) that he fatally neglects the cinema—the handheld DV camerawork flattens the argument as much as the visual texture. The comically-tinged suspense and technical brilliance of certain moments (specifically a long take that details a men’s room stand-off between a soldier and several increasingly agitated World Cup spectators) never grow out of anything organic as in the great Panahi/Kiarostami collaboration Crimson Gold. None of the players here have anything approaching the larger-than-life presence of Crimson Gold‘s oppressed ticking clock, Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin), and, though a glance at the cast list (with character names ranging from “First girl” to “Boy with firecrackers”) suggests that Panahi is quite aware of Offside’s diagrammatic nature, it doesn’t excuse the hamstrung results. When documentary and fiction blend during Offside’s conceptually transcendent climax it does little more than obliterate this ideologically loaded group of shadow people—everything and everyone whittled down to fit, peg-like, into corresponding black holes of socially progressive allegory.

Cast: Sima Mobarak Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayesteh Irani, M. Kheyrabadi, Ida Sadeghi, Golnaz Farmani, Mahnaz Zabihi, Nazanin Sedighzadeh, M. Kheymeh Kabood, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Reza Farhadi, M.R. Gharadaghi Director: Jafar Panahi Screenwriter: Jafar Panahi, Sahdmehr Rastin Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics Running Time: 92 min Rating: PG Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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