Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mohsen Makhmalbaf's 'Sesso e filosofia' (Sex and Philosophy) 2001 makes a poetic statement about love


Perhaps the title of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film is misleading. Perhaps it is not. Jon is a poet, fantasising about love, who counts his life by the moments of happiness which he got from being in love with a woman. He is a poet. When he gets to the hospital, the doctor asks him his profession. He says I am a poet. The doctor, a woman, says I like poetry and I write poetry too. But by profession I am a doctor. Then he says by profession I am a lover.

Makhamalbaf manages to play around the concept of love and happiness with dexterity. The scenes have a certain lightness of touch though they seem to be weighed down by a lot of sentiment - ostentatious, heavy, even boring -- and theory -- even more heavy and more boring. It is the dance scenes that makes it easy viewing. The dancing girls are a metaphor for the theme -- the hard work that lies behind beauty of sentiment.

There is something about the Persian national character where the idea of love becomes the sublime idea. What Makhmalbaf succeeds in doing is to fix the ideas in interesting frames, because that is how cinema works -- the sliding of scenes. The narrative holds, and the heavy philosophy becomes light. What you are left appreciating is the argument that emerges about the passing of life and the frailty of love which still gives hope to life.

The woman realises the inarticulate anguish of the poet for elusive love and accepts the fact that it is love that gives meaning to life. Don't let the word 'Sex' in the title give the impression that this is about sex and all that. It is a serious lyric on love in the pure Persian tradition of 'íshq'. 

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