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The Northwest Passage has no more pomegranates

This Magazine Staff

First off, apologies for the spell of darkness. I wasn’t trying to express certain silences of the documentary form with the silence of this blog. (Or was I?) No, a combo of slow internet, distractions, etc — these are to blame. There must always be something to blame. (Or must there?)
On Wednesday I watched Passage in a sold-out theatre. Passage is an attempt to rescue the reputation of John Rae, the man who discovered the true story of John Franklin’s death as he sought the Northwest Passage, from the dustbin of history. Much less successfully, experienced director John Walker tries to valorize the Inuit’s role in the whole affair.
The film is a po-mo tour-de-force, blending historical recreation, rehearsals of the historical recreation, debate about historical recreation, etc etc. And yet, it works! At least, insofar as the narrative is compelling and remarkably easy to follow. It’s also pretty heavy on self-congratulation. And with its lionization of Rae, Passage’s intended spotlight on the role of Inuit in Rae’s achievements is dimmed and at times forgotten.
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates is another po-mo tour-de-force. (Yes, from now on I will only be reviewing po-mo tour-de-forces.) I saw it yesterday in another packed house.
It’s director Massoud Bakhshi’s history of Tehran, mostly the past hundred years, organized loosely around the theme of the contradictions and idiocies of various attempts to modernize the city. Unlike Passage, a sincere and serious movie with a playful form, Tehran is an ironic, sarcastic, and funny treatment of Tehran — it’s almost documentary sketch comedy. Though in its last few scenes, Tehran’s loose structure begins to wear, on the whole it’s an entertaining and insightful and quite beautifully shot.

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