Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine

(Booye kafoor, atre yas)

Few films are more personal than Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, the first film from legendary Iranian director Bahman Farmanara in over two decades. The Iranian government banned Farmanara (The Report, The Desert of the Tartars) from making films during this time. Smell of Camphor is both a film and a meditation. Farmanara plays Bahman Farjami, an Iranian director who may or may not be Farmanara. Farjami has not made a movie for over twenty years, and now is in the twilight of his life. His health is failing, and he is looking back over his life and his accomplishments.

Farjami is making a documentary on Iranian burial funeral rites for Japanese television. This causes him to ruminate over his own impending funeral, and the documentary slowly transforms into what he wants his funeral to be. Farmanara has a wicked sense of humor, and gives himself a day from hell. Everything goes wrong for him, and he must spend time correcting the problems of his family and the people he encounters. As he continues to work on the documentary, he commandeers it for himself. It is hard discerning between Farmanara the director and Farjami the fictional character. Smell of Camphor plays like a movie made for the end of a career. Is Farmanara trying to send a message about his health of his work?

Unlike other Iranian films, Smell of Camphor is easily accessible in terms of its narrative. A closer examination reveals that the story structure merely serves to frame a series of ideas. There is a considerable amount of dialogue, more than most other movies from Iran. However, much of the dialogue flows forth like thoughts, in an almost stream-of-consciousness-like mode. It's like peering into somebody's diary. Some things make sense only to the person who wrote it. Still, Farmanara bares his soul for the world to see, and the result (whether it is about him or not) is intensely revealing.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Farsi with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some mature themes, a PG or PG-13 at worst.

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