Cease Fire / Atash Bas will certainly shred any idea a western audience may have of Iranian society and women. This foreign romantic comedy DVD from Facets is certainly charming, original, and well-acted. It has all the elements of the standard, Hollywood romantic comedy but with a Farsi twist that makes it fresh and much, much more than a simple curiosity for fans of foreign movies. Cease Fire / Atash Bas is a hell of a lot of original fun.
For some reason, one of the blurbs on Cease Fire / Atash Bas calls it an Iranian Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you have seen The War of the Roses (Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner), you have a basic idea of what this foreign comedy now on DVD is. Throw in a bit of Tom and Jerry cartoons, a connection writer director Tahmineh Milani makes early on in the movie, even mentioning she was born in the year of the mouse and he was born in the year of the cat, and you get the comic exaggerations of this movie.
Mahnaz Afshar and Mohammad Reza Golzar are excellent as Sayeh and Golzar, a young professional couple who fall in love and hate at the same time. Sayeh is a head strong woman who will not let her husband, Golzar, be the only one who wears the pants in their relationship. They provoke each other every time they possibly can and even when you think they possibly can't and spend a lot of their time trying to top the other's latest outrageous antic at getting even. If he cuts her clothes to shreds, she gives his away to beggars. If he breaks a glass because she will not take it to the kitchen for him, she breaks two. Vases and other fragile, throwable things are an endangered species in this household.
One of the funniest and most original scenes in this comedy from Iran is the two suppers where the family gathers to solve the couple's dispute. Golzar sabotages Sayeh's meal but she had foreseen this and takes out the extra dishes she had hidden all around the kitchen. It gets even better at the second meal.
The movie is told in a series of flashbacks as Sayeh (Mahnaz Afsar), looking for a divorce lawyer, inadvertently walks into a marriage counselor's office and tells him her story. This allows for a series of short, very comic scenes that keep you interested and laughing throughout. Another brilliant scene is when Golzar listens to one of the sessions his wife has with the therapist and replies to each of her comments.
A North American audience may not understand all the subtleties of Cease Fire / Atash Bas nor a lot of why Sayeh's conduct is so socially outrageous to her husband but the humor is easy to understand, original, and very funny. One suspects that as in many comedies made under what we perceive as repressive regimes there is a political subtext here, especially in the words of the marriage counselor. Milani manages to sneak it in in a way that a North American audience will recognize some of the elements of its own battle between the sexes.
This is a great farce and very enjoyable comedy DVD. The translation is in a couple of occasions and I am guessing a little wonky, especially the use of the word pessimistic when it seems another word, negative perhaps, fits better. White subtitles also do not always work well in brightly lit scenes. This, however, does not take away from enjoying this really good foreign comedy DVD.