Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, today we’re happy to welcome online a short I’m extremely impressed by, the latest work from Kasra Farahani, a gifted Art Director on Hollywood films, as well as the director of the impressive sci-fi short NOON, which is currently being adapted to feature by Chernin.
The film, Concerning the Bodyguard, is a meditative inquisition on power, change and self-determination. Pairing two literary giants like Barthelme and Rushdie will always be a great foundation for a short film, but Farahani builds on this solid base via evocative production design, subtle visual effects, and skilled direction, to create a truly exquisite short.
With several recent examples of fallen dictators in the middle east, and with an especially newsworthy one stubbornly clinging on in Syria, Barthelme’s story, published in the New Yorker in 1978, is as timely as ever. Through repetitive querying, aspects of the bodyguard’s life and attitudes are subtly explored, questioned, revealed. It’s a magnificent work, occasionally light, sometimes banal, but with sinister details and oppressive foreboding that peeks out from the edges when you least expect.
Rushdie, while not an actor, keenly understands the performative aspects of the reading. He sells it as a genuine inquisition, curious and probing, but does not fail to seize upon the lilting repetition that allows the pieces to take on another form entirely — that of a tone poem where answers are in fact known and the discursive interrogation is merely ritual for truths too big to name.
This quality of parable is preserved by Farahani by consciously not making the film too specific. The desaturated grade and the vintage automobiles evoke a period film, but that period is not rigorously defined. Neither is the setting, as signs and graffiti are alternatively presented in Arabic, Farsi and Russian, though it is in fact Los Angeles standing in for all. Farahani described to us looking for architecture in Los Angeles with a “brutalist” quality that is common in fascistic modern dictatorships. Thus, the film is widely applicable to many peoples, evoking more generally the “growing pains of modern society” rather than a critique of any one particular.
What’s next for Farahani? His debut feature film, The Waiting, is scheduled to debut next month at SXSW, and he is already at work on a 2nd feature, titled Tilt. An artist with Farahani’s visual panache will always be in demand, but direction means being able to adroitly handle storytelling and the writing of others — with this short, Farahani took a big step in proving himself in both those regards.
The New Yorker, October 16, 1978 P. 36
Writer creates an atmosphere of conspiracy and violence by asking a series of questions about a bodyguard attached to a high government official in an unidentified country. In every part of the country, bottles of champagne have been put aside for a special day, evidently to celebrate the assassination of the bodyguard's principal by revolutionaries. Does the bodyguard wonder why his principal needs 6 bodyguards and 2 armored cars with grenades under the front seats Does the bodyguard's principal talk to him while they are sitting in the car? Has the bodyguard noticed the difference between the quality of his shoes and those of his principal? Is there a new bodyguard? Why? Does the bodyguard patronize a restaurant packed with communists? On a certain morning when the garbage cans of the country are overflowing with empty champagne bottles, which bodyguard is at fault?