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Last Annual Session of the Screen Actors Society

Tousi: I saw few heroes in the films screened at the festival this year.

Former head of the Film Critics and Writers Society, referring to the fact that an actor performance is greatly influenced by the atmosphere in which he is placed, said: “I saw few heroes in the films screened at the latest Fajr Festival.”
The last session of the Screen Actors Society was held in the evening of Monday, March 15, 2010, with the theme of “Durable Performances and the Reasons for their Durability” with the participation of Davoud Rashidi, Habib Dehqan-Nassab, Javad Tousi and a great number of the Iranian screen actors in the auditorium of the House of Cinema.
Javad Tousi began the session with a general survey of the Iranian cinema. In parts of his speech Tousi said: “The durability of the Iranian cinema was first noticed in the 60s, at a time when the Iranian cinema had gone through its slow growth from 1940 to 1950. That was called the period of stagnation because theater had taken over the position of cinema. In other words it was the start of the modernity which had changed the Iranian cultural atmosphere of the time. The atmosphere of the time was influenced partly by the heterogeneous circumstances of the time. In the film industry we had a very slow motion type of progress and were behind the world cinema. The other influence was the introduction of the classical literature which failed to bestow a distinguished position to the actors, while critics wrote general type of essays instead of film reviews. At the time stage actors imposed themselves on the movies.”
The film critic added by saying: “There were two tribunes for the actors in those times. One was the type of thinking that was represented by Abdolhossein Noushin, who covered Saadi and Ferdowsi theaters, and the other was the ideas of Ahmad Dehqan as was expounded by Dr. Vala. Thus opportunities were created for the actors and in 1943 we witnessed the return of the stage actors to the cinema, although the style of the performances was only to the taste of the common people. Finally in the late 60s   and with the introduction of melodrama, the actors left behind the period of experimentation. A group of actresses entered the scene and melodramas such as “The Vagabond” and “Party in Hell” and actors like Arham Sadr who presented tape characters attracted attention. Another notable film of the period was “The Three Musketeers” in which Vahdat present a type character. These were hardly durable performances and the films lacked the nostalgia of the late Samuel Khachikian’s films. Just think of the performances of Arman in Khachikian’s films or the female characters of his thriller films. The women in those films were seducers, very unlike the foreign films of the time. And remember that this was the time when the films of John Huston had attracted world attention.”
In continuation of his speech Tousi said: “At that juncture the late Fardin’s dream films also failed, and the viewers left the cinema feeling that they had been duped. Equally unsuccessful were the films of Majid Mohseni whose film “The Sparrows Return to their Nest” failed to satisfy the viewers who were quite familiar with the formula of those types of films. At this juncture the film “Carefree Ali” was the height of the dream cinema.
People who entered the film scene in the 70s based their work on individualism and protest and as a result the synthesis of the hero and anti-hero acquired a realistic image.”
The former head of the film critics and writers continued by pointing out that: “At this juncture the hero of the action film `Qaysar` attracted attention and seemed to satisfy a need. Apparently the young generation of the time was searching for a personality like him, and thus hero worship and individualism acquired a prominent position, while films such as “The Night of the Hunchback” and “The Brick and the Mirror” did not rely on such individualism. Thus the New Wave of the Iranian cinema was initiated with film like “The Cow”, “Tranquility in the Presence of the Others” and “Qaysar”. And with due respect for the work of all those innovative directors one would like to ask the question Why “Qaysar” was prominent among those works. The answer must obviously be the fact that the social psychology of the time needed a character like Qaysar as well as the type characters like Farman (Nasr Malek-Motiie) and the vagabond (Bahman Mofid). Actually Mofid is one of those actors whose full capabilities was never utilized and was confined to mediocre films. It is also possible that this was not the actor’s fault and might have been caused by the fact that the atmosphere and the roles were not suitable to his talent.”
The film critic continued by saying, “In those years many foreign films were screened which blocked out the Iranian films of the New Wave and appropriated the top position. The issue of actors’ performance was epitomized by the character of Qaysar, and then we had instances of individualism in films like “Lucky-Handed Ali” and “Impasse” (Saeed Raad). Subsequently the anti-hero entered the scene and proved to be successful. At that juncture the durability of the performance was dependent on the actors’ freedom to improvise. Behrouz Vosouqi attained great fame for reasons of his flexibility and the fact that he possessed features that were in line with the characters he portrayed in “Qaysar”, “Zal Mamad”, “Seyed” and “Majid the Caterer”. Similarly, Davoud Rashidi, who came to the movies from the theater, is more durable for the roles he performed in the films of Jalal Moqaddam and Freydoun Goleh, such as “Escape from the trap” and “The Beehive” and the TV series “Hezar Dastan” in which he revived the nostalgia of the individuality. We could also add to the list the late Parviz Fannizadeh’s brilliant performance in the “Downpour” although he had minor roles in other films such as “Tangsir” and “The Deer”. Apart from the social circumstances, the type of characters that are written in a script and its acceptability are also important factors. Similarly the atmosphere in which an actor is placed during the shooting and whether or not it has been prepared professionally and according to standards affects performances.”
He summarized his speech by saying: “To sum up we could say that realism and judicious choices are of utmost importance, and in those conditions an intelligent filmmaker like Masoud Kimiaie makes the right decisions and is able to communicate with the mass of viewers. Dariush Mehrjui is another prominent director in whose pre-Revolution films – “The Mina Cycle”, “The Postman” and “The Cow” – male characters form the pivot of the films while in his post-Revolution films – “Sara”, “Pari”, “Banou” and “Bemani” – women take the central position.”
Tousi further said: “Granting that actors influence the atmosphere created in a film, then obviously the movement should be toward higher position, elation and prominence. But the pathological aspect of the issue relates closely with the social circumstances, while the prevailing cultural atmosphere which is affected by politics does not create such an opportunity and actors move in the opposite direction. In spite of the great volume of the annual productions we have no prominent films and the young generation can not identify with any of the characters presented in the films. As a result the artist is robbed of his worthy capabilities. What has happened to the actors and the scripts after 31 years of experimentation and opportunism? Why aren’t correct policies applied in this case? When a responsible government official is changed and is replaced by another one, every previous decision is altered to suit the personal tastes of the new official.”
In continuation of the session archival footage of old and new films running for 30 minutes, with scenes from the films “The Deer”, “Qaysar”, “Wolf’s Track”, “The Santur Player”, “Mr. simpleton”, “The Cow”, “Escape from the Trap”, “Dash Akol”, “The Lead”, “The Blue-Veiled” and “Blade and the Silk” were screened. Then Tousi resumed by saying: “At the Fajr Festival this year we had few heroes. One exception is Hassan Fat’hi’s `The Penalty’ which will be welcomed by the viewers because of its novel and convoluted plot. It has to be seen why Mostafa Zamani fails in `Aal’ while he is quite successful in `The Penalty’. Why is Hamid Farrokhnezhad’s iconic character in `The Eventful Night’ quite successful while `The Color Purple’ the actor fails to arouse much interest?”
Concerning the reason why an actor attains the position of a star and the durability of the performances said: “Parviz Parastui has come to the cinema from the theater and he has attained a brilliant position, but the repetition of the same type of characters turns his performances into clichés. Similarly Jamshid Hashempour is successful in his short role in the “Paternal Farm” in which he has no dialogue lines and attains an iconic position.”
Tousi concluded by saying: “We have to appreciate the achievements of the pioneers and preserve respectful positions for them so that they may not feel they have been utilized as tools. We have to remember that respect for old and distinguished performers is equal to respect for the totality of the Iranian cinema.”
Notable people attending the session were Heshmat Aremideh, Farshid Zareifar, Mohammad Barsouzian, Reza Aslanlou, Homayoun Ershadi, Faramarz Roshanaie, Ahmad Reza As’adi, Farideh Sepah-Mansour, Atash Taqipour, Bizhan Emkanian, Arash Taj, Jalal Pishvaiyan, Mehdi Miami, Amir Zand, Farideh Saberi, and Qorban Najafi.
The session ended with the presentation of a statuette to Javad Tousi.


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