Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emerald City

Having a bit of a lost weekend over here in the Enchanted Forest, so haven't found much time to write. But I wanted to post something about our excursion to the Emerald City today, to visit the fabled and renowned Rose Theatre.

The Rose opened as the plushest of the City's theatres in 1907 hosting live vaudeville shows, soon enough displaced by silent moving pictures. Talkies later drove out the silents, then went silent themselves, so that when Rocky Friedman acquired the Rose 20 years ago it was a shuttered second-hand store. He began the laborious work of restoring both the building and its place in the cultural and social life of the community. His work was immediately successful, and the response enthusiastic, so that three years later he expanded modestly, adding a second screen, dubbed "The Rosebud."

Today we chose the film at the Rosebud, "A Separation" by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, which won an academy award for best foreign film last month, after earlier winning the golden globe. It's an extraordinarily intense examination of contemporary Persian domesticity, the simmering, uneven, and endless guerilla warfare between the sexes in a traditional Shi'ite society, and the Islamic legal system.

The drama is a controlled explosion going off in claustrophobic, crowded interiors -- the family's small apartment, the chaotic, sweaty courtrooms, inside cars, etc. -- which are a reflection of the walled-off, rule-bound personalities of regular people trying to get by in a tense, tightly-wound society in which the genders communicate with each other through a dense maze of complex, religiously prescribed etiquette.

I came out of the theatre feeling like I'd been someplace really scary, but we'd been nowhere at all except inside the intimate personal lives of fictional characters.

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