Gabbeh Movie Review

Outside of the work of Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian cinema can be a mixed bag. Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Gabbeh, while heralding plenty of top ten list appearances and four star reviews, is a mixed bag that's really quite typical for that country's filmmaking industry. The images are lush and simply fascinating, while the story is nothing special at all.

A gabbeh is a type of woven rug, and the one in question is a gabbeh owned by an old couple (never named) who treasure it as an heirloom. This gabbeh features a picture of a man and woman riding on a horse, and when the couple goes to wash the rug (which is accomplished by tossing it into a river), the girl sprouts to life. Her story involves the other figure seen on the rug, a man who loved her from afar, for reasons we'll discover as the film plays out.

It's a mere 68 minutes until the credits roll, and Gabbeh feels appropriately slight. But the film's visual beauty will distract you from the shallowness of the plot. It's quite reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was wondrous to behold, but ultimately much ado about nothing. To call it a masterpiece is a bit disingenuous.

Of course there are no special effects in Gabbeh, unlike Tiger: Gabbeh doesn't morph out of the rug. It's just a poof and the girl (also called "Gabbeh") is there. And that simplicity at least makes us feel like we aren't being tricked into seeing more on screen than is really there.

The film is small, but that may make it even more memorable.


Comments

Gabbeh Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 1996

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