I finished a bag of chips as we started to watch Jafar Panahi’s Taxi. I was about to get up and throw it away but waited.
The opening shot held too much promise, a point of view from Panahi’s car as he started through Tehran. I folded the bag and held it tight.There is so very much to say about Panahi’s film Taxi – searing political statement, marvel in story-telling, profound celebration of life, comic odyssey into sordid realism (a phrase repeated throughout) – but what struck me most is the advice given by Panahi to a prospective filmmaker who sits in the back of the car. After being told that the young man had read many books but could not find a good subject for a film, Panahi replies: “Those films are already made, those books already written. You have to look elsewhere.” If only Hollywood and the rest of the film-making world would listen to that; it’s the ideas that matter and not the budget. Imagine what the Oscars might look like then, with none of the Mad Max, Gravity, Lord of the Rings nonsense. Actual films instead…what a world that could be.
The film ended as suddenly as it had began, the camera removed, the screen now black. I realized that I still held the plastic bag tight and, at long last, stood to throw it away.
Finding wonder and joy in misery is what makes humans great. It is a beautiful subdued elegy to life and freedom that somehow reminded me of La vita è bella.
Panahi’s thoughtful, easy-going manner is a testament to humanity.