Iranian avant-garde theatre director Homayoun Ghanizadeh, after years of staging plays, decided to try his hand also at a different medium, to a maverick and pleasingly dotty result. “The Hairy Tale” (Maskharehbaz) however is not his first rendezvous with the tenth muse, as he starred in Mani Haghighi’s “The Dragon Arrives!” (2016), which screened in Berlinale’s main competition and in 2018 he directed the short movie “Irreversible”.
Ghanizadeh’s debut feature, which premiered internationally at the 35th Warsaw Film Festival where it was awarded for the script, in the catalogue description is labeled as a “black comedy”. The director skillfully juggles with dark humor paraphernalia and joins them with a dream-like convention, use of specific camera angles, CGI and color palette, drawing parallels with Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But behind the facade of entertaining form, he sneaks in the bitter observations and addresses important social issues.
Ghanizadeh sets his narration in a microcosm of a barber shop, with three main characters: the owner, Kazem Khan (Ali Nasirian), his two employees Shapour (Babak Hamidian) and Danesh (Saber Abar), plus occasional cameos of customers and other inquirers. The main trio is portrayed through their mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, like Kazem’s passion for “Casablanca”, Shapour love for canned tuna and Danesh devotion to the film star Homa (Hadieh Tehrani). Danesh, dreaming about Homa, also dreams about an acting career of his own. He believes in his own potential and talent, however he got no closer to pursuing his stardom plans. However, in confinement of his fantasies he reenacts numerous movie scenarios, built from the most threadbare clichés. Those are the daydreams of a mediocre man, taken from the scratches of the ideal world’s visions, in which he rises above the monotony of everydayness.
The daily routine becomes a recurring refrain. Kazem, Shapour and Danesh day after day cut, shave, cut, shave, and cut and shave. They welcome customers, repeat the same gestures and mannerisms, while the director with his cinematographer find an adequate way to portray it. All those little boring nuisances become almost a ritual. The characters have their little obsessions and neurosis, like the comic-flavoured Kazem’s nervous tic, resulting in demoustacheing his clients. Day after day everything seems the same. Hair and nails grow and time passes… rewind. Kazem, Shapour and Danesh’s existence comprises of repetitive, dull actions with no big goals ahead, despite their big dreams. They seem to fruitlessly wait for something… and not without a reason the name “Godot” appears, which is an important symbol from the most famous play of Beckett.
The break in a routine comes with Manfred, the owner’s colleague, who comes one day, willing to purchase women’s hair. Also, the whole locality is shaken with the news of corpses of females with shaved heads washed up on shore. Eccentric police inspector Kiani with Robert de Niro looks (Reza Kiani) will investigate the matter and because of the nature of the crime, the barber shop attracts his eye. But don’t expect the whodunit type of narrative. Despite the element of crime, the movie stays eccentric fantasy, a dark fairy tale about misfit dreamers shot in a vintage entourage that we can’t place it in any particular point of time, past or present. It plays with the form and conventions, and is full of tributes, as well as real and false film quotations and references. Ghanizadeh’s approach is a refreshing turn from the honest social realism of Iranian movies that festival audience is the most familiar with.
What is the most interesting is that the world of characters is the world without women. Ladies appear in a brief cameos and we neither see their faces, nor hear their voices–camera shows them only from behind. The only female character who actually speaks and fully appears on screen is Homa, but she is a phantasm, just a mere fantasy of the main character, not a person of flesh and blood. Kazem, Shapour and Danesh are the parallel of society that eradicates women, pushing them behind the boundaries of a male-dominated world and forcing them into passive roles. And that world is a world of grotesque, balancing on the verge of a catastrophe.