Asghar Farhadi's first French-language film is all twists, no payoffs.
Asghar Farhadi (France/Italy, Special Presentation)
Thursday, September 5, 9:30 p.m.
Visa Screening Room, Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street)
Saturday, September 7, 10:30 a.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)
Asghar Farhadi follows up his remarkable, Oscar-winning A Separation with a less-successful portrait of a family in crisis. Trading Tehran for Paris this time, The Past focuses on the secrets that come to light when Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns from Iran to finalize his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo, best actress winner at Cannes), who’s now in a relationship with Samir (Tahar Rahim), a man haunted by his own private demons.
Farhadi started out as a theatre director, and at his best, his films have the charged interpersonal dynamics of a good Tennessee Williams play, stopping just short of exploitative melodrama. The Past goes a bit too far over the line, doling out the script’s increasingly convoluted revelations one false scene at a time, until each confrontation begins to feel like a hollow set-up raised only to be taken down moments later. That over-reliance on twists makes the film a curious misfire from one of the most sophisticated storytellers in contemporary world cinema.