Saturday, March 17, 2018

A few words about Amir Motlagh and his two new films MAN and THREE WORLDS

I have been a long time fan and supporter of Amir Motlagh's film work.  I screened his movies in Maryland a very long time ago - back in 2005 or so - when this century was still brand new.  We are almost 20 years into this new century now, and Amir has just completed two new feature length films for 2018 release.  He has made I believe around 15 or so films thus far - three features and the rest shorts.  I liked the first film that he showed me - I believe it was Still Lover - and I've liked most movies he has made since then.  Amir is a true art/indie/DIY filmmaker.  Not sure if this is completely by choice, but he also does commercial work for clients, and works in the LA film industry.  But, his own films, he makes those as a painter or a musician makes their work - in his own way, mostly by himself and at times with a small support team, and to express ideas that he is concerned with and to share his experience of the world, views of the world with others.  His movies have an honest feeling to them, and I feel more connected to everyday life and more at peace with the world after I watch one.

Still Lover (2003) from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.
Khoobi (are you ok) - 2011 from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.

And since this is America - the amazing nation that contains all nations - there is a whole other side to Amir's work and life experience.  Both Amir and I have roots in other countries.  I moved here from Sri Lanka in my teens and Amir's parents are from Iran and he has spent some time in Iran.  So, to us, the rest of the world is not an alien thing as it may be for most people who were born and raised in America.  As with people who are able to connect across cultural boundaries with other people, and as with people who are amused by and perhaps see the American experience at a remove - which Jim Jarmusch seems to do with his films even though he was born and raised here - there is a deep sympathy in Amir's work for lives of all types of people from all over the world and specially with people in America who live at crossroads - between two cultures, or between two social or economic classes or even between two levels in the filmmaking world.  This is specially evident in some segments of Amir's fist feature WHALE.  This aspect of Amir's work is not very pronounced all the time and is not always fighting for attention, but it is there for viewers to see and experience.  This adds a deeper layer of reality and truth to Amir's movies.  Amir's movies are both fascinated by and a little bit alienated by the American experience.  But, underneath all that, his movies offer an inclusive and warm frame for characters to live out their complicated lives and experiences.  And they show a generally well adjusted middle class Iranian-American family.  Amir's mom and dad are stars in his movies - and those two create great characters (maybe they are just being themselves, but I very much enjoy seeing them on the screen.  Look for a great segment in THREE WORLDS where Amir's mom talks about going to see movies in Iran as a young person).

MAN - teaser 1 (feature film 2018) from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.

Amir's new film MAN is interesting and unusual.  In it we see a man go about his day in some suburb in California.  He is an Iranian-American man (played by Amir, and he speaks Farsi in the film).  He works in the tech field.  He seems comfortable financially, has a nice house, has a dog.  However, he does not interact with other humans much, aside from talking to some family members on the phone and participating in social media sites.  The character is a man who lives a comfortable and isolated life.  The events in the film are shown through the main character's view point - the audience see what the main character sees.  Certain events happen during the day in question in the movie, which I will not go into so that viewers can discover those events for themselves.  I believe that the movie is supposed to be critical of the technology fueled existence that we now live in, without much real world contact with people in some cases.  However, I found the film to be both beautiful and relaxing (much to Amir's amusement).  I live in Brooklyn, sharing an apartment with my girlfriend, and surrounded by thousands of people - and I pass by hundreds of people when I walk out of my apartment and into NYC.  To me living in a nice quiet area in California with little real world contact with people sounds like a delightful vacation.  I enjoyed MAN a lot and I plan on watching it when I need a break from Brooklyn in the future.  MAN is beautifully filmed, with great music and sound design.  A well made art/experimental film.

A scene from THREE WORLDS

Amir's other new film THREE WORLDS is more of a regular narrative film - but still unusual - a drama-sci-fi hybrid film.  Without going into much detail I will say that in THREE WORLDS a man experiences three different lives.  This experience may be caused by an experimental treatment that the man is receiving (in the future perhaps).  THREE WORLDS is a bit of a puzzle movie.  It unwinds at its own pace, and slowly forms the full picture.  It is also beautifully filmed - with amazing shots of California.  Out of all of Amir's movies THREE WORLDS feels the most like a large event.  Perhaps THREE WORLDS is the tent pole sci-fi action movie of sorts in Amir's otherwise modest body of work.  Both MAN and THREE WORLDS are things to experience - they are both movies and also are perhaps some type of means by which to go on an unusual journey (I know that this sounds vague, but it is best to experience these movies as word descriptions do not do them justice).  There aren't really a lot of movies that I can compare Amir's new movies to - perhaps they fall somewhere in between Jarmusch's Limits of Control and Only Lovers Left Alive - experimental journeys with some warmth, romance, heart, and humor.  And it is entirely possible that this was not what Amir intended, but that was what I experienced through the two movies - so, see them for yourself, see what those two experiences reveal to you.

Amir is a true independent, art, both American and foreign at the same time filmmaker who makes movies in a way that a few people do these days and who pretty much is the best definition of a DIY filmmaker (I consider Amir to be one of the great discoveries of this blog, along with Barry Jenkins) - an artist who makes interesting work with means available to him and who keeps working regardless of the amount of attention paid to his work by the film industry or critics or film festivals.  He is an undiscovered artist in some sense - undiscovered by the mainstream film industry in the US/Hollywood, thus far, but perhaps the two new features will move him out of that arena and into the awareness of a larger number of people.

Both MAN and THREE WORLDS screen at Chicago Filmmakers on 4/21/18.  Get more information here.  Amir can be contacted here for those who are interested in writing about his movies, viewing them, or interviewing him.  I am promoting the 4/21 screening as a favor to Amir since he works at a super low budget and it would be an additional stress for him to hire a publicist and marketing person at normal rates - so basically as a favor to an artist whose work I enjoy and as a favor to a friend - BUT - even if that were not the case, everything I said above is true.

- Sujewa


Friday, March 16, 2018

Amir Motlagh's MAN and THREE WORLDS movies preview screening at Chicago Filmmakers on 4/21

From Chicago Filmmakers - "A double feature of two new films by Los Angeles-based filmmaker, musician, and artist Amir Motlagh and Chicago-based filmmaker, Charles Borg. MAN (2018) is a vertité-style day-in-the-life story about a computer programmer who lives a secluded existence in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon. His sole real-life companions are his two dogs; everyone else--friends, colleagues, family--he only connects with through technological mediation, via phones and computers. Three Worlds (2018) is a psychological science fiction drama that explores the three lives, or 'worlds,' or a man who undergoes an experiment that triggers haunting memories and alternate life 'memories.'"

More here -

Amir Motlagh's website is here.

- S



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