The Salesman

The Salesman ★★★½

"Emad... You are taking revenge on him!" ~ Rana Etesami

Having been impressed by the previous two films I saw by Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, I was eager to watch his latest release and second Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. The location is Teheran, where Emad and Rana Etesami (Shahab Hosseini & Taraneh Alidoosti) are married stage actors. Emad, who also teaches at a local school, has earned among his students the nickname "salesman" for his portrayal of Willie Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman."

The imminent collapse of their unsafe apartment building causes the Etesamis to move to a temporary new home. They are fortunate that Babak (Babak Karimi), a fellow actor in their play, has a two-bedroom unit that's available. When the former female tenant doesn't clear out all of her belongings by moving day, the landlord has all of her thing placed outside, where they get rained on.

The night after their first performance, Rana goes home first, while Emad talks to the censors about some questionable lines in the play. While she's alone, someone breaks in and assaults her. Emad arrives later and sees blood on the staircase. The apartment is empty, but there's blood on the bathroom floor. He goes to the nearest hospital and finds his neighbor Mr. Alimoradi (Alireza Rofougaran) helped get Rana to the ER. Alimoradi thinks it could have been a "client" of the previous tenant, who led a "wild lifestyle."

Emad wants to go to the police. He found the assailant's abandoned car keys and located his pick-up truck. He also found a dead cellphone. That should be enough evidence to put the detectives on his trail. But Rana is reluctant. She feels ashamed. She doesn't want to talk about it. But now she's afraid the stay in the apartment alone. And when she tries to act on stage, she breaks down.

At school, Emad can't concentrate. He sleeps while showing a movie in class and the students take pix of him. He starts to believe the attack was planned by the former tenant. Meanwhile, the play's director Kati (Maral Bani Adam) decides to take Rana's place on stage. Then, the pick-up disappears. Rage starts to eat away at Emad, just as Rana is hollowed out by shame. Their relationship becomes testy. And Emad decides to take justice into his own hands ... never a good idea.

In Act Three, Emad tracks down the culprit, but it's not anyone like he thought. He makes a plan to exact revenge, but there are circumstances beyond his control. The film veers off to a very different ending than I could imagine.

Apart from the Academy Award, this film won prizes for Best Actor (Hosseini) and Best Screenplay (Farhadi) at Cannes, along with a nomination for the Palme d'Or. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language, while winning the World Cinema Amsterdam Audience Award for Best Film. It's a keeper.

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