If a Man Loves a Woman - "20 Fingers" Review

By Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid

Painter-turned-actress Mania Akbari (the driver in Abbas Kiarostami's "Ten") makes her directorial debut with "20 Fingers," and it's no small achievement. Yes, it's simplistic -- the film comprises no more than ten single shots -- and it may be just a tad overwritten, but it's powerful, wrenching stuff. Originally conceived as seven vignettes about different couples, Akbari decided to play in all of them herself, alongside Bijan Daneshmand ("Munich"), each of them exploring various facets in various stages of various relationships. In one, a man tries to determine if his lover is a virgin after she tells stories of playing "doctor" with a male cousin as a girl. In another, a man argues against his wife getting an abortion. In a third, a man gets jealous that his wife danced with another man. Each vignette unfolds in a single shot, but the choice of location is just as important as the camerawork. In one, the couple rides a motorcycle through the city streets (a young child grasped between them), while the camera races alongside them, sometimes close, sometimes far away. In another shot, the couple rides an elevated cable car, and the camera swishes back and forth between them, rarely -- if ever -- capturing them in the same frame at the same time. The situations as conceived can come across as preachy or soapy, but in practice they spring dramatically to life. The running theme is not so much the cruelty of man, but the nature of love. It's a remarkable, and tough-minded debut.

Originally Published June 8, 2007



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