"A Simple Event" Review

By A.H. Weiler The New York Times

"A Simple Event," the Iranian entry in the Museum of Modern Art's New Directors/New Films series, which was shown last night and will be repeated tonight, is an altruistic but all too simple saga. Sohrab Shahid Saless, a documentary director who made his feature film debut with "Event" in 1973, has again achieved a documentary-ike authenticity. But his overlong, sometimes repetitious examination of a small-town family vitiates a potentially powerful drama and loosely veiled implications of the seemingly hopeless life in the Persian hinterland.

His unspecified, reportedly nonprofessional, principals are an obedient, if badgered, schoolboy; his fisherman father, and his ailing mother. Unfortunately, their lives are matters of mere survival in unchangingly drab surroundings, perceived through largely unemotional reactions to the normal and occasional abnormal situations with which they are faced.

The English subtitles are understandably sparse, since the cast is, at best, taciturn and hardly articulate. One empathizes with the dutiful boy who keeps running from school, where he is constantly criticized, to fetching the fish to stores, to home and silent, meager meals, to bed and back again to the same rounds. And a viewer is momentarily touched by his mother's sudden death and lonely funeral and his father's sympathetic, if unsuccessful, attempt to buy him a new suit.

But the automaton-like father, who is given to work, drink and sleep, as well as the worn mother and their sad-eyed youngster, emerge as merely pitiable figures on an unrewarding, distant but mostly placid landscape. They deserve compassion but, like the tragedy of isolation, poverty and helplessness, they remain vague and largely unresolved in this "Simple Event."

Originally Published April 8, 1975

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