March, 2003, Drama

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who's been making movies for some time, presents an intelligent alternative to HBO's "Taxicab Confessions" in this film, as he mounts two cameras inside a taxi in Teheran and follows a handsome woman behind the wheel, (played by the stunning Mania Akban) in her encounters with the cab's passengers, one of whom is her estranged young son. In just over an hour and a half, Kiarostami effectively coveys the stresses Iranian women confront today in their country's uneasy accommodation to Islamic imperatives in the post-Talaban era. 

Although Akban's character speaks with a bravura that matches her secular, liberal appetites, the dialogues with the women in her cab display the deeply conservative cultural and religious undercurrents in contemporary Iranian life. Tellingly, the only male the audience encounters is Akban's pre-adolescent son, whose attitude towards his mother speaks volumes about the advantages the male of the species still has in Iran today, despite the country's apparently impressive swing towards modernity since the days of totalitarian social control instituted by the ayatollahs. Even the most ostensibly modern women in this film find it impossible to define themselves without reference to the men in their lives.

The Verdict?  A "small" film, covering a vast subject.

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