Review: 3 Faces shows banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi dealing with suicide and gendered violence

Director’s fourth feature since his 2010 arrest isn’t his best, but it sensitively handles the intimate and anecdotal

3 FACES (Jafar Panahi). 96 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 8). See listing. Rating: NNN

Jafar Panahi’s fourth feature after his 2010 arrest for “making propaganda” and subsequent filmmaking ban finds the Iranian director roaming more freely than before. 

No longer filming under house arrest (as with This Is Not A Film) or keeping his camera stowed discreetly within a vehicle (Taxi), Panahi directs and performs while liberally walking around a rural village, confronting countryside patriarchy and his government’s imposed restrictions all at once.

He’s there on a road trip with Iranian actor Behnaz Jafari, both playing versions of themselves searching for a teen named Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezaei). The latter has sent a cryptic video that appears to be a suicide note, describing her dreams to be an actress and the ways her family squashes those hopes, preferring she grow up to be a traditional wife.

Panahi and Jafari’s desperate search for the teen sets up inquiring conversations with local villagers – some quaint, some volatile, all indicative of the ways women are tied down or punished for the behaviour men might instead be celebrated for.

3 Faces meanders a bit, the collected interactions not coming together as holistically as they tend to in Panahi’s best work. There’s playfulness in its form but less so in the tone, where the filmmaker’s light touch must also handle subject matter that insinuates suicide and gendered violence.

Nevertheless, the film is a modest reminder that Panahi is a master when scripting conversations that are both intimate and anecdotal, all while walking a fine line between the comic and tragic.

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