The visually exquisite “Women Without Men,” (Zanan-e bedun-e mardan, 2009), fine artist Shirin Neshat’s feature debut, after a career in photography, installations and visually lush experimental video, adapts Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel, set in the months leading up to the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that led to the return of the Shah. By detailing the lives of three Tehrani women from different classes, Neshat provides a perspective apart from the machinations of powerful men. Understated and elegant, “Women Without Men” is rich with indelible imagery and Neshat’s pictorial, oblique approach to narrative is to be admired. Her earlier work draws upon calligraphic tradition, and her film is filled with lyrical strokes of similar ornament. The beauty is timeless, as is the political import, as reflected in the volatile state of Iran today. The effective score is by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Abbas Bakhtiari. An excellent background piece is here; an extended trailer is embedded below. 99m. (Ray Pride)
“Women Without Men” opens Friday at Siskel. The Monday 8pm show will be introduced by the Art Institute’s James Rondeau. Wednesday’s 8pm show will be introduced by Hamid Naficy from Northwestern, author of “An Accented Cinema: The Making of Exile Cultures.”
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.