Leila - B
Viewed May 15, 1999 at Cinema Village

The popular image of Iranian cinema is probably influenced by the fact that the vast majority of Iranian films to get relatively widespread release in the US feature children prominently. Leila is the antidote to the latest Farsi heart-tugger; it's all about basing an undue amount of a woman's worth to society on her ability to bear children can warp people's lives[1]. It's also quite a bit different from the likes of Children of Heaven in setting its story among the Tehran wealthy, and the expressionist mode Dariush Mehrjui operates in: there are momentary fades to pure color, a strong use of color and lighting, and (my favorite) dissolve jump cuts. What makes it particularly brutal to watch emotionally is that Leila herself is as much responsible for her slow self-destruction; you just want to grab the screen and smack some sense into her. The final scene, in particular, is a heartbreaker as Leila sees her actions not as an exercise in self-destructive stupidity, but a noble act of sacrifice. I'm not quite as enthusiastic as some of my fellow colleagues about the film, though. While the deliberate pacing is often a strength of the film, it gets a bit wearying during a middle stretch where the plot just sits down and takes a breather.

[1] And before we Yanks start feeling all culturally superior to the Iranians, note the spasms the news media have any time a woman pops out a whole litter of wee ones.