The Color of Paradise

Sep 13, 2000 at 12:00 am
It’s gotten where if a movie has been nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar you can be almost certain that it will be sullied by a huge glob of uninhibited sentimentality. Worse yet, this is probably what will lie at the heart of its appeal. There’s been a strange reversal during the last few decades. Whereas once foreign films were seen as an antidote to the naiveté of domestic fare, now the more popular imports offer a maudlin coziness that counters the cynical harshness of much American product.

Which brings us to The Color of Paradise, an Iranian film (and Oscar nominee) by Majid Majidi which is held in high esteem by many who celebrate its “genuine” emotion and pictorial beauty. I wouldn’t argue with that last part — the portions of the film which take place in the Iranian countryside are simply gorgeous. But its story of a blind boy and his widowed father set my teeth on edge.

The film begins with the boy at a school for blind children, studying Braille. His father comes, reluctantly, to take the boy to stay with his beloved grandmother in the country. The grandmother and his two young sisters love the boy unconditionally while dad sulks around the farmhouse wondering how he can ditch the kid and pursue his marriage to a local lovely. He forces the boy to apprentice to a blind carpenter, which gets him out of the way, but which also precipitates an agony of remorse for the father.

Much of the film is stiffly acted and awkwardly subtitled, but when the dramatic crunch comes Majidi’s gaze is steady and sure. Unfortunately, getting there is a gooey trip.

Richard C. Walls writes about film and music for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].