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“The Chessboard of the Wind”, a strange Iranian film banned since 1979, between Satyajit Ray and Luis Buñuel: sublime

Found in the depths of a gourbi, then meticulously restored, The Chessboard of the Wind arrives on screens Wednesday, August 18 in a sumptuous version. Amazing genre film for Mohammad Reza Aslani, experimental documentary filmmaker and poet, who signs a black pearl. Gothic, it evokes the Gialli (Italian thrillers) of Mario Bava and Riccardo Fredda of the 60s, in a contemplative vein. Banned in 1979 by the mullahs for religious irreverence, The Chessboard of the Wind sweep away everything in its path.

In the 1920s, rich Iranian silversmith, Haji Amou, traditionalist, thinks only of the heritage of his wife who has just died. But the latter is bequeathed to his daughter-in-law, whom he would prefer to see dead. His two nephews, whom he lodges, are no better off in this large bourgeois house where the heiress travels in a wheelchair, helped by a servant who pleases her in a supernatural world. Grudge and revenge will foment a series of violent crimes, with the lure of profit as a common denominator.

Gothic, The Chessboard of the Wind has all the virtues of it with splendid images, with sumptuous decorations, and interpreted by actors who seem to be playing a nocturnal ceremony. It feels like Ann Radcliffe, who collaborated on the so-called terrifying noir novel of the end of the 18th century in England. A rationalized supernatural that gives priority to dismal atmospheres and the excess of feelings, in a macabre delirium of which the surrealists were great fans.

Death haunts The Chessboard of the Wind, which begins as a film by Satyajit Ray (The Music Room), poured into melodrama (Grifith), then fantasy (Bava). The dark atmospheres are crossed by colored harmonies worthy of a canvas. The last part of the film takes place in shades of orange (vitality) and purple (death), complementary colors with rare visual impact. Myriad bulbs and candles bathe the entire film of mystical amber. Splendid.

Shohreh Aghdashloo in "The Exhiquier of the Wind" by Mohammad Reza Aslani (1976).  (CARLOTTA FILMS)

In the production, Reza Aslani takes the time for each gesture, and composes his soundtrack with the care of Robert Bresson, accompanied by strange and disturbing music. The ancient choir of washerwomen punctuates and comments on history. Tale, whose Koranic morality is given from the introduction, The Chessboard of the Wind was banned in 1979 in Iran and around the world. The hypocrisy that he denounces in a pious man ready to kill to make a fortune, is unacceptable in the eyes of a new regime which applies Sharia (Koranic law). The unexpected reunion with The Chessboard of the Wind fill a great void in the knowledge of an Iranian cinema full of surprises. A gem!

Poster of "The Chessboard of the Wind" by Mohammad Reza Aslani (1976).  (CARLOTTA FILMS)

Kind : Drama
Director : Mohammad Reza Aslani
Actors : Fakhri Khorvash, Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Akbar Zanjanpour
Country : Iran
Duration : 1h55
Exit : August 18, 2021
Distributer : Carlotta Movies

Synopsis : Following the death of his wife, Haji Amou, a traditionalist, patriarchal and corrupt trader, plans to get rid of his daughter-in-law, Petite Dame, title heir to the fortune and the beautiful luxurious house in which they live. This emancipated and modern woman is paralyzed and can only get around in a wheelchair. To face the plot formed by her stepfather, she gets help from her maid, unaware that she has it both ways …

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