Those familiar with new Iranian cinema, which tends often to be semi-documentary in form, will be unsurprised to learn that Farjami is played by Smell of Camphor's actual director, Bahman Farmanara, and that the film echoes details of his own circumstances. Farmanara exhibits a particular animosity toward Iranian censorship - a completely justified position, obviously - and in Smell of Camphor it seems as if he's set out to break as many of these prohibitions as possible: Our hero gives a ride to a woman unknown to him, he takes a stab at Iranian health care, some French is heard (foreign words being forbidden in Iranian film), there's upbeat music (likewise forbidden), our hero prefers solitude (unhealthy and forbidden), a bearded character is portrayed unfavorably, the police are referred to disparagingly, and so forth. (I am not, by the way, making any of these restrictions up, and it's worth noting that recent crackdowns by conservative Iranian factions within the state-run film industry would make this film impossible to produce today, only four years later.) Farmanara himself went without work since directing 1979's Tall Shadows in the Wind. Watching his first-person indictment of the system that robbed him of his livelihood ("I do not fear death," he says at one point, "I fear a futile life."), your heart bleeds for him.
Continue reading: Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine Review
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