Taxi ★★★½


I no longer understand exactly what the strictures placed on Panahi amount to, given that he can apparently drive all over Tehran picking up actors. Still, given the potential for an entirely cab-set film to be even more claustrophobic than his last two, it's kind of exhilarating to see him working overtime to entertain. The first half, in particular, verges on rapid-fire sketch comedy, with a new passenger introducing a new complication every few minutes; Panahi aggressively eschews the naturalistic lulls and longueurs that Kiarostami favors in moving vehicles, keeping things sharp and snappy. Despite all the welcome showmanship, however, at its core this is yet another movie complaining (understandably) about Iranian film censorship, and the home stretch gets a tad whiny à la Closed Curtain. Having a cute little girl read the country's super-sized Hays Code aloud, and then struggle herself to shoot a film (on her phone) that doesn't violate it, does at least put a humorous spin on the self-pity, for which I'm grateful. But if he can make this, surely he can make a movie that's not about his inability to make a movie.