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The Pastry Girl.

(DOKHTARE SHIRINI FOUROUSH)

(IRAN)

An Iranian Film Society release (in the U.S.) of a Sahara Film production. (International sales: Sahara Film, Tehran.) Produced by Majid Moddarresi, Hamid Moddarresi.

Directed, written by Iraj Tahmasb. Camera (Ershad Film Lab color), Aziz Saati; editor, Hussein Zandbaf; music, Mohammad Reza Aliqoli; production designers, Hamid Jebelli, Tahmasb; costume designers, Jebelli, Tahmasb; sound, Fradon Khoshabefard; supervising sound editor, Bahman Ardalan. Reviewed at the Music Hall Theater, Beverly Hills, Feb. 5, 2003. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Fatemeh Motamed Aria, Soraya Ghasemi, Hamid Jebelli, Iraj Tahmasb, Ghasem Zare.

Iraj Tahmasb's broad Farsi farce "The Pastry Girl" pokes fun at the customs of Iranian wedlock, but its tone-deaf sense of humor and overextended storyline give it the appearance of a sitcom stretched to the bigscreen. Tripling as writer, director and co-star, Tahmasb is aiming for the kind of family and social comedy that avoids being too irreverent while at the same time makes enough digs at convention to attract the sympathetic eyes of Iranian auds, both in the homeland--where it recently unspooled--and abroad, including Stateside, where it's rolling out successfully.

Loud and corny style is about as far as one gets in the Iranian cinematic universe from recent critical triumphs of Babak Payami, Jafar Panahi and Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. Intro image of pushover son Saeed (Tahmasb) willingly carrying his elderly, pain-in-the-ass father, Aghajoun (Hamid Jebelli, effectively irritating), on his back is a choice bit of visual comedy that manages to sum up their relationship.

For 20 years, Saeed has been trying to marry homely pastry chef Niloo (Fatemeh Motamed Aria, star of Bani-Etemad's "The Blue-Veiled"), but without Aghajoun's blessing, the would-be groom has failed. Due to factors including an undying feud with Niloo's family, including her widowed mom, Mrs. Rostami (Soraya Ghasemi, most recently in strong dramatic form in "The Last Supper"), Aghajoun has devised one ploy after another to block the marriage.

There are repeated sequences in which both families soften up somewhat and appear to endorse the marriage, only to fall into fistfights at the wedding itself. Also repeated to wearying effect is business involving the bride's dowry, transported back and forth as arrangements are set and then collapse. Although a recognized master of children's puppet theater prior to becoming a thesp and filmmaker, Tahmasb never seems to know when a gag or joke is enough.

"The Pastry Girl" includes a touch of sweetness between Aria and Tahmasb, but her character's grating tendencies to chant poetry and (literally) talk to flowers and trees, as well as his spineless attitude toward his father work against the pleasures of social comedy. A climax in which Saeed finally does stand up to Aghajoun isn't nearly as satisfying as desired.

Physical comedy staging, especially when it gets down to the group slugfests, is rudimentary at best. Screened print was full of tinting problems, and subtitling is pockmarked with flubs, such as "dowry" being mangled into "drowsy."

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Author:Koehler, Robert
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Mar 3, 2003
Words:486
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