Saturday, December 28, 2019

Delightful Taste of Secrets

January 8, 2015
The Delight of Fear

Reviewed By Ezzat Goushegir

Farnoosh Moshori's new novel The Drum Tower gives us a delicious taste of secrets, the delight of fear, the treasure of dreams, the sweetness of humor and glimpse of fictionalized history.

Written scrupulously with the fluidity of prose and scrutiny; Moshiri journeys into the depth of Iranian culture, through the core principles of Persian poetry, mythology, fairytales, folktales and legends, in order to write a story full of poignant mysteries. The result is a masterful portrayal of a family in Iran living during the times of social and political upheaval in 1979. Growing up with Persian poetry and literature she shapes her novels with the wealth of literary traditions as well as the richness of contemporary American novels.
Consisting of multiple plot strands, the essence of this multilayered novel is devoted to the analysis of a diluted aristocratic family shattered by the collapse of former dynasty and later ending the old tradition of monarchy by people's uprising through 1978. To portray the effect of this critical period, Moshiri constructs to reveal the entanglement of her characters' personal lives through family negligence, sexual and emotional abuse, madness, the insanity caused by revolution, the rise of religious dogmatists and ultimately war. She creates absurd images, settings and spaces to unveil the incongruity of her characters' behaviors; their vulnerability and strength, peculiarity and intelligence, illusory and sense of reality. With all their absurdity, her characters surprisingly are amiable, pleasant and delightful to the readers!

Moshiri intentionally chooses her characters' names and characteristics based on symbolic meanings and literary factors. Her main character Talkhoon is originated in an old folktale "The story of Talkhoon and Ah" which in 60s and 70s regenerated and shaped new generation of women in Iran who were in search of new identity. These women formed an underground revolution in mind, in theory and practice through literature and art to follow certain principles: Freedom, justice, equality,bravery, curiosity, autonomy, audacity,knowledge, and wisdom!

Although Moshiri's Talkhoon is considered mentally ill, she in fact is an an astute observer,and fully aware of her surroundings. In her reclusive cell, she carefully absorbs, learns and practices the lessons of life, protests in her own way, wears men's clothes and falls into deliberate silence to overcome her agony, her unbearable situation.

Resembling Emily Bronte's life dealing with her own creation of Heathcliff, Talkhoon, discovers the plans and schemes to escape from Assad, the compulsive illiterate servant, half-uncle and later a thug, a sickening torturer who puts his revenge on her with violence and rage. His complicated obsessive love and hatred had been accumulated through years of degradation, contempt and class inferiority. In another way, Khanum-jaan a crazy matriarch is portrayed beautifully.

Although the illustration of Baba-ji is a bit ambiguous but his complicated coma represents a generation who had fallen into symbolic and metaphorical oblivion. Symbolic; because they had lived under tyranny for a long historical time, and their only opportunity was to dream of freedom and wish for an imagery bird of liberty. Although Baba-ji's obsession on writing a book about mythical Simorgh, the bird of knowledge, sheds light on the importance of the collectivity of global wisdom, yet his anticipation of the bird's appearance and the search for sapphire feather remain ambiguous.

In writing style, Moshiri's story is intimate. She deliberately focuses on the surface of description and lets the reader to be completely free in taking an active role in the formation of her novel and go beyond the depth of her story. She invites the reader to take the liberty to imagine the events, travel with the characters, judge them or not judge them or react to the situation. This absolute freedom helps the reader to choose, to analyze or take sides. Her dialogues are smooth as well as the narrative technique which is fluent and fully demonstrative.

"Blue is the Warmest Color"

January 4, 2015

Reviewed By: Ezzat Goushegir

Graphic Novel

Emotionally profound and drastically honest, "Blue is the Warmest Color", the graphic novel by Julie Maroh, portrays a teenage girl, Clementine, who journeys through excruciating pain to discover her identity and sexual orientation. Written tenderly with unique French sensibility and genuine frankness, the core of the story emphasizes the essentiality of love in human life.

"Clementine: Have you never been ashamed to be like that?
Emma: Only love will save the world. Why would I be ashamed to love?"

In terms of writing and drawing technique, Maroh manages to make transitions between present and past, dialogue and narrations by presenting color for present time and black and while with a touch of blue for past time. Although Maroh had no tendency to stress on racial and class differentiation, but the reader could feel slight traces of these subjects through colors, characters' manners and dialogues!


Abdellatif Kechiche has been a director that I have admired immensely since his film Black Venus . Before watching "Blue Is the Warmest Color"; I had seen three powerful films by him: Games of Love and Chance, The Secret of the Grain and Black Venus. I'm still obsessed by Black Venus; a powerful film I believe had never received an adequate attention it truly deserved.

It seems "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is the continuation of "Games of Love and Chance" in a more concrete, tangible and personal way, emphasizing a deep analysis of a character torn apart by her sexual identity and social norms. kechiche is a multidisciplinary filmmaker, fascinated by the complexity of human reactions toward circumstances. He is also obsessed by the beauty and vibrating energy of the youth.

The film with all its stunning beauties and masterful scenes is unnecessarily long and in some parts ostentatious. It also falls into unnecessary pornographic expressions which takes away its absolute beauty.

Hilda, A Well- Defined Picture of Domestic Imperialism

June 5, 2012

Reviewed by Ezzat Goushegir
Last year I attended a reading of Hilda, a powerful play by Marie Nduaye the French playwright. In this complex play which manifests human cruelty, exploitation, domination and class control, the rich, dominant, yet lonely Madame Lemarchand finds a maid named Hilda whom she expects would satisfy her complicated need for an infinite power. She not only alienates Hilda from her own identity, but gradually estranges her from her husband Frank--also a worker--and two children. Madame Lemarchand creepily acts like a corporate boss, transforms Hilda as her possession and tortuously imposes her husband to pay her when Hilda visits her family. The consequence of this process is Hilda's and her family's brutal destruction.

Marie Nduaye skillfully takes us to a familiar world to scrutinize the menacing process of domestic imperialism. Hilda is indeed a modern adaptation of The Maids by Jean Genet. Basically a different take on the real incident happened in France in 1933 as the result of the exploitation of the workers. In this version, if we see it from a larger spectrum, although the maid is absent, she is symbolically present. It's the intelligent audience who would see Hilda as a silent nation, yet pregnant with rage.

Seeing the play at Alliance Francaise de Chicago, as the second reading of The International Voices Project was an extraordinary experience.

Love in Our Time

Love in Our Time  

August 30, 2011
Reviewed by Ezzat Goushegir

In a dream, in 2006, I abruptly opened a door where in the room I saw a large brown table. Under the table was GWB kissing a young blonde man in a suit. Embarrassed, he smiled and changed his position. I closed the door.
Caryl Churchill's play "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?" is as if an exploration of my dream.

In "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?" Churchill in a minimalistic form creates two characters Sam as a country and Guy as a man who falls in love with him, to lucidly portray her political view of our time. Although the play is short and contains of eight brief scenes, it takes the reader into a long journey through history of domination, invasion, covert operations to overthrowing governments by using certain torture technics as well as the usage of chemical and biological weapons to control most of the third world countries.

The power game consistently dominates the private moments of the two lovers when Sam plays a complete control over Guy by demanding total commitment with him. Sam's supremacy attracts Guy, a man who left his wife and children and now submissively tries to be a part of his worldwide power.

What makes this play unique and undidactic is Churchill's exploration of the theatrical language with concise and condensed sentences. The style of brief dialogues flourish through the play as the two characters complete each other's speech with unfinished sentences or unrelated words as a starting point of new subjects or arguments. That's also how certain group of people communicate to each other now days without listening or considering one another.

The universality of this play's theme and its creative style can widely be discovered by directors and interpreted by actors in wide range of forms and performances.

Coco before Chanel

Coco before Chanel  

January 18, 2011
Reviewed By Ezzat Goushegir

I call the movie "Coco before Chanel" real art, real cinema! The screenplay was subtly written with scrutiny and directed artistically by Anne Fontaine.

Fontaine portrays Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel with an in-depth view on her characteristic from all aspects of her life, circumstances, and impulses. Mesmerizing in every frame, every scene, the film focuses on Coco's gaze into her surrounding, in order to explore her contradictions, her persistence of being obstinately herself and her tenacious longing to become a self-made woman.

Fontaine explains: "This girl, coming from the heart of French countryside, poor, uneducated, but endowed with an exceptional personality, was destined to be ahead of her time."

Fontaine's film is not about fashion, but about a striving woman who tries to be independent and conquering a world which governs by wealth and men. Coco does not sit back and hope for something to change her life, instead she questions, challenges and learns from all the instruments around her to empower herself.

Film has many layers, many brilliant moments, and many witty dialogues which remain in us forever. More than anything else is the stunning performance of Audrey Tautou which brings out the richness of Coco Chanel's character, the mystery of her inner life as well as her sensuality, simplicity, elegance and exceptionality.

Before exploring love, Coco who believes love brings misery to women's life (as she had experienced her mother's agony) says: "Skin is skin, you just turn off the light!.." But understanding the essence of love changes her tremendously. Love strengthens her, flourishes her and elevates her to the highest level of determination and dazzling creativity. One of the captivating scenes is that after the death of her lover, Coco touches fabrics as if touching the skin of her lover knowing that life has blossomed out of death.

"What is essential is invisible to the eye"

"What is essential is invisible to the eye"  
December 28, 2009
David Small in his graphic memoir "Stitches" is the explorer of the deepest of human's inner life. He tells his heartrending story about his illness and the process of being used for scientific experimentation by the "Soldiers of science" and their modern weapon X-Rays. He mockingly portrays the Nazi-like soldiers as "heroic men featured in the ads in Life magazine" (p 27) and their message that the miraculous X-Rays which could see through everything even metals would cure anything. The result of this experimentation is that he develops cancer then loses his voice after the procedure: "I soon learned, when you have no voice, you don't exist." (P212)
Demonstrating this terrifying scientific experimentation, Small is forced to take a journey into the enigmatic world of unknowns, digging irresistibly for the truth. Through his painful invisibility, despite the loss of his youth, Small discovers a magnetic voice inside him. Poetry of drawing! Through his empowering voice, his invisibility becomes visible in the eyes of those who know the art of seeing. His voice becomes essential as Antoine de Saint-Exupery describes in the Little Prince: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye".

The subversive and subjective elements in "Stitches" remind us Francisco Goya's paintings with social truths as images in this book of art could be reminiscent of our own life in the essence. The connection is clear and representative by one's sensitive memory of childhood with a symbolic centipede shape stitches running down one's neck. A lonely soul who dreams Gilgamesh- like dreams and nightmares, imagining a fetus running after you, looking at forbidden books, falling in love with characters in the particular books...and standing up for your own truth.

Although Small describes the tragedy of his own life in relation with his family, but it can be expanded to a broader perspective, a broad reader and to a larger humanity such as those who live under tyrannical societies, those living in wars, being invaded by foreign sources, even prisoners who are treated as strangers in this world.

The novel punches you repeatedly with effective punch lines such as: "I gave you cancer", "Your mother doesn't love you" and "Do you know what our utility bill is going to look like?" Or the illustration of sound languages in his alienated house: the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors Whap, Whap by his mother...or the sound of his father pounding on the punching bag: "Pocketa, pocketa....and Ted beating on his drum: Bum, Bum, Bum...and his own language, getting sick.

"Stitches" has many layers. It brings to mind great literature such as Woyzeck, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Little Prince and Charles Dickens' stories...More than anything else it resonates the story of our own life.

Under the White Clouds

Under the White Clouds  

November 30, 2009
Reviewed by Ezzat Goushegir,
"Art" a play by Yasmina Reza has a universal theme on the complexity of human behavior in our modern time.
Although the play appears absurdly simple on the surface, but digging inside the dark comic crackling language, one will find many complex layers on its undertone. It deals with serious subjects we face in today's human communication such as: narcissistic interactions, vulnerability, the meaning of friendship, the games of power and ultimately the tremendous need for love, sense of belonging and affection.

Serge buys a white painting with three scars on it for a huge sum of money. His friend Marc accuses him for his bad taste and deconstructive perspective of modern art. Ivan, less privileged in his social class, and overwhelmed by his personal problems, tries to mediate by pleasing both Serge and Marc. But the conflict is beyond the white painting. It is about their infatuation and obsession with an egoistic desire for conquest. In other words, the characters' self gratification and ambition drive them to dominate and control others in order to gain power. Respecting each other's freedom is only used by them in theoretical verbal debates. In practice the essence of this matter is not truly exercised! Ivan challenges Serge and Marc's gobbling contemptuous language and criticizes their ingenuous actions by philosophizing the meaning of freedom:

Yvan: ..."If I'm who I am because I'm who I am and you're who you are because you're who you are, then I'm who I am and you're who you are. If, on the other hand, I'm who I am because you're who you are, and if you're who you are because I'm who I am, then I'm not who I am and you're not who you are..." (P 41)
As the play progresses, Reza shows how underneath the three character's confrontational actions lies an enormous vulnerability. And a strong need for unconditional love, affection and self-approval.
Marc: ...I enjoyed your admiration. I was flattered. I was always grateful to you for thinking of me as a man apart. I even thought being a man apart was a somehow superior condition, until one day you pointed out to me that it wasn't.
Serge: This is very alarming.
Marc: It's the truth.
Serge: What a disaster...!
Marc: Yes, what a disaster!
Serge: What a disaster!
Marc: Especially for me...Whereas you've found a new family. Your penchant for idolatry has unearthed new object of worship. The artist!...Deconstruction! (P: 52)

At the end, three characters express their profound lonely world in their monologues. Ivan explains that only irrationality would bring humans together.
Ivan: ...In fact I can no longer bear any kind of rational argument, nothing formative in the world, nothing great or beautiful in the world has ever been born of rational argument. (P: 62)
And Marc, who has despised this piece of white painting through the entire play, at the end interprets it with a profound poetic tendency and describes it as a world where a solitary man appears and disappears into the landscape. That`s how humans journey into life.

Marc: Under the white clouds, the snow is falling.
You can't see the white clouds, or the snow.
Or the cold, or the white glow of the earth.
A solitary man glides downhill on his skis.
The snow is falling.
It falls until the man disappears back into the landscape.
My friend Serge, who's one of my oldest friends, has bought a painting.
It's a canvas about five foot by four.
It represents a man who moves across a space and disappears. (P: 63)

"Art" has a playful, verbal dancing dialogue with certain musicality and rhythm which makes any actor eager to take part in acting a role.

"The truth is not the truth"

"The truth is not the truth" 
 July 13, 2009

Reviewed by Ezzat Goushegir
Woman Between Mirrors by Helena Parente Cunha the Brazilian novelist, feels as close and intimate to me as if I were the author of this book, virtually writing it in my own rhythm and style, with my own words, voice and breath.
Although it derives from feminist schools of thought of the 80s and 90s, I believe this is a novel for all times. Like Clarice Lispector, the prominent Brazilian writer, Cunha is in search of identity. Cunha not only emphasizes Brazilian national identity and its historical and mythological relation to Africa, but also in the discovery of "self", the physical space of the body and the exploration of womanhood.
The novel consists of a long first person monologue narrated by a house wife from the upper middle class family. Using a psychoanalytical perspective, she explores how the process of sexual and intellectual awakening, transforms her into an independent, liberated woman and an author.
One of the devices of this novel is the protagonist's relationship to the author who is separated from herself. She constantly scrutinizes this "woman who writes me" often in a critical dynamic way including analyzing her as "a slave to liberation". This labyrinthine relationship goes beyond the conventional relationship between the author and her character. In fact the narrator tries to convince us that the protagonist is more perceptive than the author, and she revolts the author's one dimensionality. "She's as much a prisoner as I am. Being free by needing to undermine standards is the same as being a slave. She is a slave to liberation. My submission liberates me." (p. 9)
The narrator then explains that "Each thing has many sides, each person has many voices...and that way we know the truth is not the truth." (p. 15)
At the end of the this multi-layered, multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary novel, a thunderstorm shatters the mirror into a thousand pieces and the narrator sees her entire face in a shard of glass. Her face is as complex and blurred as the Jorge Luis Borges' character in "The Aleph" and Fernando Pessoa's multiple personalities.
This enigmatic novel succeeds at revealing the complexity and ambiguity of the human mind.

An Indelible Picture of Human tragedy

An Indelible Picture of Human tragedy 
 June 5, 2009
Reviewed By Ezzat Goushegir, 

It began with my exploration of the word "Schlemiel"! For its personification of human identity and for its designation of those who are unfortunate and succeed nothing in life. That's how I came across to read Peter Schlemiel. But the book gave me a broader perspective of the place of a human being in this world.

Dreaming of self improvement Peter Schemiel sells his shadow to a mysterious stranger in a gray coat in exchange for a purse that contains boundless wealth. Lacking a shadow he has no place in society. Helplessly he wanders around the world in search of knowledge and spiritual sanctuary to give meaning to his life.

Adelbert Von Chamisso has profoundly experienced dualism in his life as a displaced person and had a tireless wrestling identifying himself within two countries, two cultures and two languages. Peter Schlemiel is the creative result of his deep understanding of fractured lives.

Peter Schlemiel can be equivalent to Georg Buchner's Woyzeck, Kafka's Gregor in Metamorphosis and Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. This is a timeless book for its illustration of a society in which wealth, power and torture governs. The mysterious man in gray coat symbolizes Evil which suggests those decadent forces who for the sake of power, use their greedy cynicism to terrorize people and ultimately conquer their souls and ruin them for the rest of their lives.
Chamisso portrays the quality of elite society of his time from one of his character's point of view:
"Frankly," he maintained, "anyone who isn't worth at least a million is nothing but- if you forgive the term- a sniveling worm." (P2)

The theme of this book is immensely relevant to today's world politics. The interpersonal structure that Chamisso explains, illuminates a wide range of human interaction from social relation to Geo-politics in which new colonialism degrades developing nation. The result is isolation, marginalization, exile and misery.

Although it is a novel, it has certain qualities of dark allegory similar to Brothers Grimm's folktales. It presents an unforgettable picture of displacement, estrangement, incongruity and human misery.


August 9, 2007
Book Review by Ezzat Goushegir

The 128-page book, published by Arcadia Publisher (the leading publisher of regional and local history in the United States), illustrates America's heritage of people and places via black and white photographs.

Humans everywhere hunger for knowledge of the past in order to move forward. There are hidden stories behind every still photograph. This book pays homage to Iranians whose contributions to American society enriched our culture. The rich tapestry of Iran's history is made manifest by the largest Persian Library as well as the huge collection of Persian archeological tablets displayed and kept at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, which entices visitors from all over the world to do research on Iran.

Hamid Akbari and Azar Khounani the authors of the book introduced the Iranian immigrants by searching for the first group of Iranians who traveled to Chicago in 1893. In 1903 Mirza Mohammad Ali Moen-ol Saltaneh, who visited Chicago to attend the Columbian Exposition, published a memoir, which describes Chicago as a city with numerous "gigantic factories," "innumerable railroad tracks," "many houses and buildings" on one side and the Michigan Lake on the other side. Surprisingly, in his visit to Iran's Exhibition, he encounters a number of very young French women dancers, wearing Persian dresses and posing as Iranians dancing for visitors. Moen-ol Saltaneh further writes that "the Iranian men were offended by this 'barbaric' act of having French women pretend to be Iranian women and were planning to protest it by stopping work and closing down the palace." P16

The content of the book is divided into six categories: Iranian Roots and the Columbian Exposition, Historical, Cultural, and Artistic Heritage, Immigrant Profiles and Contributions, Social and Cultural Activities and Organizations, Well-Known Visitors and The Next Generation.

Throughout the book, there is an emphasis on those Iranians who made tremendous contributions in research, teaching, medicine, business, arts and public services to promote and enrich multiculturalism in American society. Iranians, according to the latest data, are considered the most educated immigrants among similar groups.

The last chapter of the book focuses on the generation of Iranians who were born and raised in the United States, a young and active generation who proclaim that in spite of their love for Iran, Chicago (and, in a larger sense, the United States) is their permanent home.

Like a feather floating in the sky

A book review By Ezzat Goushegir

Gracefully honest and skillfully written, Against Gravity by Farnoosh Moshiri centers on the lives of three main characters - Madison, Roya, and Ric - who are seeking to find hope and meaning in life.

With a plethora of rich experiences, the core of the novel dialectically revolves around the opposing forces of love and loss, life and death, and floating and gravity. The synthesis is the text, whose words permeate the very marrow of the reader's bones.

Moshiri's characters in Against Gravity, like her other novels, are concerned with the permanent feeling of imprisonment in a world wherein the horror of living constantly haunts them.

"We are all refugees in a way. Many of us, many Americans, live worse than refugees." P152

Like Moshiri herself, - whose craft of thinking and writing is digging and exploring the deepest part of human existence -, her fictional characters have also the immediate, urgent need to struggle against sinking, to free themselves from the complexity of conditions, and mystification of reasons.

Altering the cast of characters, the lives of the main characters interweave together in the most diverse ways, in both content and style.

In each sequence of historical moments, they face many "what if" questions, which lead them toward this conclusion: no matter if it is right or wrong, it is a relative matter.

Moshiri touches upon the fundamental social problems of today's civilization: loneliness, distrust, disattachment, displacement, isolation, alienation, lack of balance, lack of human touch, lack of tenderness and love.

"We lie down together in our suspended cage, straining to hear that lonely Child." P201

In their motherless and fatherless society, all the characters suffer the loss of loved ones. Lack of emotional support in a ruthless society leads Roya to conclude: "In America almost everything is a deal." P175

Moshiri, generously lends her own rich experiences in life to the newly born characters, allows them to speak their minds, narrate their stories in a unique, distinctive voice, and creating a land within a land which can be more real than the reality itself.

Like characters in Akutagawa's story "In a Grove," none of the characters repeat the same sequences twice.

Timely in content, meticulously structured and organic in the narrative voice, Against Gravity has many layers to be discovered for future reviewers.

My film and book reviews

Some of my film and book reviews on Amazon page.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Frantz, a Brilliant Film

Frantz is a 2016 drama film directed and co-written by François Ozon and starring Paula Beer and Pierre Niney. It is about a young German woman whose fiancé has been killed in World War I and the remorse of the French soldier who killed him.

The Guardian writes:
The year is 1919. Anna (Paula Beer), a young German woman, visits the grave of her fiance who died in the war. There, she discovers fresh flowers have already been laid. A foreigner – a Frenchman, no less – is grieving for the man she lost to a French bullet in an anonymous trench. The opening gambit of François Ozon’s elegant interwar romance invites us to second-guess the story that links Parisian musician Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) to Anna’s late love, Frantz.

 Frantz, a multi layered film, on human's understanding of the brutality of war!