So Farewell then, Laser Video…

Laser DVD in Dublin.

Laser DVD in Dublin.

First, some quick house­keep­ing. For the moment, I’m going to be post­ing here once a month, as opposed to every week. If things are par­tic­u­lar­ly slow in your neck of the woods, and you’d like to hear why, by all means drop me a line in the com­ment sec­tion, and I’ll make a short sto­ry bor­ing. But for the moment, onwards:

For any­one who’s lived or stud­ied in Dublin over the last 25 years, Laser Video, as it was and then Laser DVD wasn’t so much an insti­tu­tion as it was a life­line. Since it moved to Georges Street from Ranelagh 22 years ago, it fos­tered around it a com­mu­ni­ty of aspi­rant film mak­ers and musi­cians and the intel­lec­tu­al­ly curi­ous from all around the city and its environs.

Women Without Men.

Women With­out Men.

The last three films that I picked up from there, as I recall, were: A Time For Drunk­en Hors­es, a Kur­dish film from 2000 that man­ages to be incred­i­bly cul­tur­al­ly spe­cif­ic and yet time­less­ly uni­ver­sal; the sump­tu­ous Iran­ian film Women With­out Men from 2010, which I reviewed ear­li­er here; and Fassbinder’s sole for­ay into sci­ence fic­tion, World On A Wire which was orig­i­nal­ly broad­cast as a two part mini series on Ger­man tele­vi­sion in 1973.

All three were a joy to behold and are impos­si­bly hard to get your hands on. Or at least they would have been, but five years ago.

The truth is, I’ve been to Laser sig­nif­i­cant­ly few­er times over the last two years than I had in the pre­vi­ous two. And I had been far few­er times dur­ing those pre­vi­ous two years than in the two before them. I had every inten­tion of fre­quent­ing it as ardent­ly as I had in the past, it just didn’t happen.

David Byrne's True Stories.

David Byrne’s True Stories.

The very tech­nol­o­gy that made a place like Laser pos­si­ble ulti­mate­ly ren­dered it redun­dant. Or at least com­mer­cial­ly unvi­able. It was the rev­o­lu­tion in film dis­tri­b­u­tion thanks to the arrival of video that lead to the cre­ation of a place like Laser. And it’s the Inter­net and the rip­ples cre­at­ed by the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion that have lead to its trag­ic demise.

It’s des­per­ate­ly sad for every­one involved. And we’re all going to miss it ter­ri­bly. And I sup­pose, if anyone’s to blame, we all could have made a bit more of a con­scious effort of late.

But, for good or ill, the world has moved on. To quote from True Sto­ries, which is exact­ly the kind of film that you would only pre­vi­ous­ly have ever chanced upon in Laser. David Byrne, whose only work as a direc­tor this is, turns to cam­era, and says:

What time is it? No time to look back.

Farewell then, and thank you.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right of below and I shall keep you post­ed every month(!) on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Women Without Men”, One More Must See Film from Iran.

Women Without Men.

Women With­out Men.

Women With­out Men sounds like it could be one of those dull, edu­ca­tion­al chores. In fact, it’s a sump­tu­ous, rich­ly evoca­tive film that calls to mind the heady days of Ital­ian cin­e­ma in the1960s and ear­ly 70s.

Think late Vis­con­ti, De Sica’s The Gar­den of the Finzi Con­ti­nis (reviewed ear­li­er here) and the Taviani broth­ers. What if Bertoluc­ci had ever man­aged to use his tech­ni­cal bravu­ra to actu­al­ly say something.

Shirin Neshat, whose first film this is, has said that she was influ­enced by Kiarosta­mi when she decid­ed to make the move from con­cep­tu­al art into the world of fea­ture films. But she is very much part of that new wave of Iran­ian film mak­ers of Ash­gar Farha­di, who made A Sep­a­ra­tion and About Elly (reviewed here and here), and poor Jafar Panahi, (reviewed here), who, out­ra­geous­ly, remains under house arrest in Iran.

This Is Not A Film

Panahi’s This Is Not A Film.

Inter­est­ing­ly and unlike them, she is look­ing at Iran from the out­side, hav­ing lived most of her life as an exile in the US.

Neshat has tak­en Shahrnush Parisipur’s famous novel­la, which charts the lives of four women, and has posit­ed their sto­ries against the back­drop of the events of 1953. It was then that the British and the US joined forces to over­throw the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment of Mosad­degh, and sup­plant him with a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship under the Shah, so the British could main­tain their con­trol of Iran’s oil supply.

Inevitably, indeed nec­es­sar­i­ly, rev­o­lu­tion fol­lowed 25 years lat­er. Imme­di­ate­ly after which, the same crowd armed and fund­ed Iraq in its war against Iran. And then they invad­ed Iraq, and then Afgan­istan, again, over yet more oil. And on it goes ad, patent­ly, infini­tum. Lit­tle won­der then that Iran looks at the West with such jaun­diced eyes.

Women Without Men.

Women With­out Men.

All of which could have result­ed in a painful­ly dull film, part his­tor­i­cal lec­ture, part fem­i­nist tract. But what Neshat has made instead is a mar­riage of mag­ic real­ism and exquis­ite, for­mal pre­ci­sion. The result is rav­ish­ing­ly beau­ti­ful and qui­et­ly mov­ing. Four female arche­types set against the back­drop of polit­i­cal tur­moil, in the face of which, resis­tance appears futile. And yet, resist they must.

It won the Sil­ver Lion at Venice in 2009 – in fair­ness, the Gold­en Lion went to the bril­liant Lebanon. You should see them both, and you can see the trail­er for Women With­out Men here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!