Frontier Blues (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/07/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Frontier Blues is strikingly shot and has the occasional good moment, but it's ultimately quite hard work, thanks to some painfully slow pacing and a largely uneventful plot.

What's it all about?
Directed by Babak Jalali, Frontier Blues is set in the desolate province of Golestan in northern Iran, on the border with Turkmenistan. The film focuses on the lives of four male characters: bespectacled Hassan (Abolfazl Karimi) wanders around with his donkey, collects registration plates and eventually takes a job on a chicken farm; his uncle Kazem (Behzad Shahrivari) runs a failing clothes shop; Alam (Mahmoud Kalteh) lives with his father, works on the chicken farm and spends all his free time learning English and pining after the beautiful Ana (Karima Adebibe), who he hopes to marry; and an unnamed, separated Turkmen minstrel (Khajeh Araz Dordi) becomes increasingly irritated while posing for a seemingly never-ending series of portraits staged by a Teheran photographer (Hossein Shams).

The Good
Golestan is described as “the land of heartbreak and tractors”, but if it's tractors you're after, you'll be bitterly disappointed. At least the film delivers on the heartbreak front, with Alam's story guaranteed to raise a sympathetic “ahhh”, even if his whole courtship story is painfully underwritten.

The performances are fine, though Jalali's approach is so minimalist that none of them are really required to do all that much and there's hardly any dialogue. In addition, the film is strikingly shot by Shahriah Assadi and there are occasional moments of humour (such as the photographer's attempts to get a picture of some local wrestlers), but they're few and far between.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is that the plot is almost entirely uneventful – that may well be the point but its repetitive nature and painfully slow pacing make it extremely difficult to sit through, especially for so little reward.

Worth seeing?
In short, Frontier Blues has the occasional good moment but there's very little to latch on to and the slow pacing and lack of plot will test the patience of even the most hardened arthouse devotee.

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Frontier Blues (12A)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 09:40

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