a black work of Iranian cinema


What could pass for a simple exit of summer is in fact a miraculous work, as it sometimes happens in the cinema to regurgitate. The Chessboard of the Wind is the first feature film by Mohammad Reza Aslani, a multidisciplinary artist as we find them in Iran, born in 1943, trained in the Decorative Arts of Tehran, reformist poet, thinker of national television, and, to top it off, filmmaker. This first attempt was only screened once, in 1976 at the Tehran International Festival, where it was coldly received. In 1979, the Islamic regime in place sealed its fate by banning it.

Reputedly lost for nearly forty years, the film resurfaces through one of those surprises that leave you speechless. Aslani finds the negatives in a flea market, acquires them and places them in a safe place. Part of the preservation program of the Film Foundation chaired by Martin Scorsese, the restored film regains its luster and reveals itself as a centerpiece, throwing a new light on pre-revolution Iranian cinema.

This poisonous and torpid work depicts the decay of a family in the last hours of the Qadjar dynasty (1796-1925), in the 1920s

that The Chessboard of the Wind was banned sorry but does not surprise. One sometimes thinks we are berlue in front of this black work, poisonous and torpid, which depicts the decay of a family in the last hours of the Qadjar dynasty (1796-1925), in the 1920s. Haji Amou, upstart boor, reigns through alliance on a large bourgeois house and the silversmith’s workshop which is attached to it. The bearded ogre schemes to seize the titles of the family mansion and the fortune of his daughter-in-law, known as “Little Lady”, the legitimate heiress of the family.

The latter is opposed with all her puny person to the tyrant, whose claws she feels are tightening on her. Crippled, she moves only in a wheelchair, maneuvered by a discreet servant who, although seeming not to touch it, leads her game behind her back. One evening, she takes advantage of the hour of prayer to slip her mistress armed with a scourge into the usurper’s apartments and deal him the fatal blow. But how to get rid of the body?

Staggering modernity

Squeaky fable, The Chessboard of the Wind manifests this taste for the macabre that we know from other classics of Iranian cinema, such as The Night of the Hunchback (1965), by Farrokh Gaffary (1921-2006), where it was already a question of a cumbersome corpse. But if we had to find points of comparison for such an atypical film, it would be less at home than in certain tales of deleterious domesticity such as The servant (1960), the South Korean Kim Ki-young, or the repressed family like Sandra (1965), by Luchino Visconti.

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