Sunday, March 8, 2020
Yekeh Bezan (1967)
An unfair assertion about/regarding Iranian cinema before the cultural revolution is that it was all bland or low-brow stuff aping the west. Farsi takes on common American movies. To which I say Phooey!...They ape stuff from Turkish and Indian films!...Kidding aside, I'm sure Iranian films took plenty of inspiration from the West, as they did from other countries, but I find it pretty annoying when an entire era of cinema is swept under the rug like it's nothing, in favour of the artsy material that came afterwards. I'm sure a lot of people enjoy films like The Cow or =, but most people just enjoy a fun adventure film. That's why today I'll be looking at Yekeh Bezan, or Little Heroes, the exact kind of film] that [film] snobs hate!...
Reza and Behrouz are two hapless adventurers who stumble onto a jewelry theft. Young lady Maryam has been repeatedly attacked by a band of crooks seeking her prized necklace, ad it's up to the duo to step in and lend her a hand. Together they manage to find a magic wand that can turn them into superheroes, and turn their enemies into =. But if they want to put a permanent stop to this gang, they'll have to think of something really out of the box...
Yeke Bezan is a fun popcorn film if you leave your brain at the door. Comprised largely of comedic interactions and fight scenes, it's a pretty decent and entertaining picture. Granted, speaking Persian is probably a must, and since I only know how to order a Chai, and a round of Bamieh, I was pretty lost as far as the deeper story was concerned.
The story is thankfully pretty basic, and accommodating-ish to foreigners. The leads are introduced quickly, as is the dilemma, and the colourful band of villains, led by a sinister man in an eyepatch! Where this simple nature bites in in the behind though is how much of the movie is comprised of random dust-ups between the heroes and villains. Nothing ever seems to be changed, and the less patient are likely to go "Oh goodie, another fight scene!".
When not busy with action, this is a pretty dialogue heavy movie, so there's probably a ton of comedy I missed. Whether or not it hit the mark I don't know, but I guess for now I can just give it the benefit of the doubt and say it was hilarious! Funniest Persian film I've seen yet!
Yekeh Bezan is mostly pretty grounded, but this changes after the halfway point, when the leads suddenly get their hands on a magic wand, and turn themselves into a Superman trio! This touch of fantasy is fun, and aids the movie significantly ,although I was a little confused by how it all came about.
I'm not sure if maybe the scene that explained how they got this wand was missing, or what. Even if this is a case, it's still a problem though, as I feel any movie that takes only half a minute to introduce a magical wand out of nowhere, halfway through the movie, is still bad writing. I suppose this is all forgiven if it turned out the characters spent the first 45 minutes constantly referring to a magic wand in Farsi, although judging by how everything looks, that doesn't seem likely? Who knows (the Persians, that's who!).
Yekeh Bezan feels like it takes inspiration from Turkish and Indian cinema (as well as Arabic, if they were fans of Ismail Yassin and co.), but it doesn't feel like it's just ripping them off, but rather like Persia's own take on these tropes, with a little of its own = sprinkled in.
Onto the characters. I was actually a little confused on how many leads there were-Three or four? There's Maryam of course, the hero Reza, then one or two comic relief characters? It's a little hard to tell, because it seems like the film allowed Reza to be both the handsome protagonist, and a goofy =! Pretty neat =.
Reza is your typical handsome lead, livened by the aforementioned sense of humour, while Maryam is pretty proactive! Rather than just hiding in the corner, she actively helps the others fight back against the baddies. As for Behrouz, he's mostly bearable. When it comes to comedy, the two leads could easily become annoying, but thankfully that mostly wasn't the case for me. The only time they are genuinely annoying is in their musical numbers. More on that below.
The villains are an amusing bunch, simultaneously tough bad guys, and whimpering kittens whenever the magic wand turns the tables on them. I was a little confused why they kept coming back given how thoroughly they get trounced each time. I suppose they're really just that determined to get this lady's necklace!
The other villain of note is the seductive belly dancer =, who's in league with the villains. Despite disappearing in the last half hour, she delivers some amusing moments as she plays her charm on the leads
Overall, how much you enjoy this movie depends on how much you like the characters. It could be a fun time, or it could be torture.
The effects here can verge on the primitive, but mostly get the job done. Even though they may look cheap or unconvincing, it never looks out-of-place or ill-fitting for the film. The costumes are all well designed too! From Superman, to Tarzan, and the cowboy cycle, the designers here really gave it their all.
There are a few songs sprinkled throughout here, and they aren't half bad. The only one that sounded like nails on a chalkboard was when the = dressed Behrouz began singing. I understand he was meant to be intentionally bad here, but boy that doesn't help the audience's ears!
As for the score, it seems to be mostly original, although we do have/get some lifted material here and there, such as James Bond, and others. Some of these are used for parodies, which works, while others are =.
Overall, I didn't find Yekeh Bezan to be the best of films, but it's not terrible, and it's a fascinating cultural artifact. Now if only I could find a better print of it! I suppose my only course of action is to look for one in Iran! Oh well, with any luck it won't be like finding a needle in a haystack!...