Offside Movie Review

Jafar Panahi's Offside still turns over and over in my head, even as this review is being typed. Panahi's films, consistently banned in Iranian theaters, are genre exercises that are rather uninterested in genre mechanics. His last film, Crimson Gold, was a crime story with a climax that was set as an ellipsis to the rest of the story. In that film, he studied the reality of certain action, allowing long moments of narrative to be spent on things as seemingly inconsequential as a pizza delivery botched by a police department stakeout or a disturbing detour into a customer's private life when he can't get girls to come over.

Further progressing in his abilities, Panahi turns the girl-power fable into political discourse in Offside. More than anything, what sticks out about the film is that nothing sticks out. The central character of Crimson Gold, an overweight pizza deliverer betrothed to his best friend's sister, gave the guise of narrative construction but in Offside, Panahi's canvas is broader and much more fluid.

At a soccer stadium in Tehran, a group of girls are held in a makeshift prison by a group of naïve male guards. See, it's Iranian law that women are not allowed in any public sports arena, but as always, the gals won't be held down. Donning boy outfits, soldier uniforms, and several other types of bro-worthy regalia, the girls brave dire punishments and some harsh words from their parents to be able to see their team go head-to-head with Bahrain in the World Cup qualifying match.

A serious sports film with political and sexual designs? A feminine-minded prison film in microcosm terms? Offside confounds the viewer in its simplicity, but there's so much going on in its contained universe that to call it anything but supremely dense would be an outright lie. Panahi, using non-actors as always, coaxes out natural, breathtaking performances from the guards and the prisoners. His biggest trick, however, is inverting the space of the stadium: the barriers that make up the makeshift prison outside the stadium give a claustrophobic mis-en-scene while the few shots of the inner stadium look as wide and open as the wild blue yonder.

In the film's key scene, one of the girls, in desperate need of a toilet, is led to the bathroom by one of the more daft guards of the group. Though he attempts to keep an eye on her, the rush of the soccer fans and his inability to keep an eye on her allows the girl to escape into the crowd and catch a few minutes of the game. Like Cool Hand Luke returning to tell George Kennedy and his compatriots about his days outside the pen, the girl returns before the game's end and holds her peers in rapture recalling the brief amount of game she witnessed.

It's in this moment that Panahi shows his greatest strength of will, never delineating from the idea of the girls as a cohesive unit. Battle of the sexes? Well-trodden territory that few filmmakers can bring sincere insight to. Offside is an audacious mini-panorama that is strikingly proficient at turning small spaces into entire galaxies. It's old hat to Panahi, but he's so damn good at it.

I'm gettin' outta here... to watch soccer!

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Starring : Sima Mobarak Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayesteh Irani

Comments

Offside Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 2007

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

'Sherlock' Cast "Reduced to Tears" After Being Told Season 4 Plot

Steven Moffat and fellow creator Mark Gatiss were quizzed about the return of the...

'Sherlock' Cast

Cara Delevingne In Talks For Lead Role in 'Zoolander 2'

Cara Delevingne, the British supermodel who made her acting debut in Anna Karenina...

Cara Delevingne In Talks For Lead Role in 'Zoolander 2'

Lady Gaga - I Can't Give You Anything But Love Video

The music studio video for Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet's collaboration, 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love'...

Lady Gaga - I Can't Give You Anything But Love Video

Merchandise - After The End Album Review

Merchandise open their new album, After The End, with 'Corridor' - a slow scintillating burner that shows the grand beauty...

Merchandise - After The End Album Review

Venice Film Festival: So 'Birdman' Just Joined the Oscars Race. Big Time.

After the trailer hit, there was always the sense with Birdman was probably going to...

Venice Film Festival: So 'Birdman' Just Joined the Oscars Race. Big Time.

Trash - Trailer

Three friends, Raphael (Rickson Teves), Gardo (Eduardo Luis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) from Brazil all work on a landfill site...

Trash Trailer

Tyler Perry: "I Wouldn't Have Done 'Gone Girl' If I Knew Who Fincher Was"

Tyler Perry, the American actor, director and producer, who appears in David...

Tyler Perry:

'Full House' On The Way Back with John Stamos, Bob Saget

That's right, it looks as though family comedy 'Full House' is heading back to TV...

'Full House' On The Way Back with John Stamos, Bob Saget

Ridley Scott Will Make 'Blade Runner 2' after 'The Martian'

Ridley Scott has revealed that the script for Blade Runner 2 is finished and that Harrison...

Ridley Scott Will Make 'Blade Runner 2' after 'The Martian'
Advertisement