DVD Review - No One Knows About Persian Cats
This movie is basically a series of music videos. Director Bahman Ghobadi centers on two young Iranians, a guy and a girl who are aspiring musicians, as they try to get visas to leave the country and perform in the United States. Along the way, they travel, often by motorcycle, around the city to meet with other aspiring musicians.
The problem is that the musicians can only be aspiring and not much more. Because of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance, a censorship bureau, musicians aren't allowed to do a lot of stuff. As such, the underground music scene is really the only scene where artists can express themselves honestly.
The story begins with Negar, a hip Iranian singer and artist. She goes to visit Ashkan, an amazing musician who just got out of prison. He's in the middle of recording a song. This is where we learn that Negar and Ashkan are going to be in a film about Iran's underground music scene. What Ghobadi cleverly does is make that film the one we're currently watching.
Negar and Ashkan go around and visit about a dozen bands. The sounds range from heavy metal to blues to Persian rap. Because the bands are real bands from Iran, this movie is a combination musical, documentary and concert. It's a concert that instead of a stage in a huge arena like Madison Square Garden, the songs are performed in cramped apartments surrounded by cats, or on rooftops, or even in cowsheds. It's a documentary that instead of capturing testimonials or relaying specific events, it hopes to give us a flavor of this place and these people, the spirit and emotion of the artists. It's a musical that like any good musical lives or dies on the quality of the songs and the performances, and this musical certainly lives. The songs and performances here are beyond wonderful. Ghobadi directs it beautifully to show off each band and really let them express themselves.
The spotlight shines on Nader, played by Hamed Behdad. Nader helps Negar and Ashkan to get out of the country. He smuggles music on the black market and he tries to organize concerts. Nader gets into trouble, but because he is a very fast and very passionate speaker, he's able to talk his way out of a lot of things. He loves movies and even names his pets after actors or film characters. Behdad is not only an actor but a musician in a Khorasani band, and the song he performs at the end is a showstopper. It's vibrant.
Five Stars out of Five.
In Persian with English subtitles.
Not Rated But Parental Guidance Recommended.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 46 mins.