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“Gesher,” Reviewed

“Gesher,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

In the Q&A after our screening of “Gesher,” a man demanded to know what the director’s intentions were with the film — “I was not entertained,” he announced. Another audience member fought back at the inappropriateness of making that observation in such a forum, and thing dissolved into an excellently combative discussion. It was entirely appropriate for the movie, which is a comedy in the primarily theoretical way that, for instance, David Gordon Green’s “Undertow” is an action flick. Director Vahid Vakilifar was inspired to make “Gesher,” his first feature, after he saw migrant workers living in unused pipes by the side of a refinery in southern Iran, where the Pars Special Energy/Economic Zone — the PSEEZ — encompasses an array of natural gas and petrochemical refineries and almost nothing else.

Jahan (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh), Qobad (Ghobad Rahmanissab) and Nezam (Abdolrassoul Daryapeyma) have come to the area for work, though the jobs they find are crushing. While Qobad is employed at a refinery, climbing through the pipes like a chimney sweep, Jahan serves as a driver for businessmen and engineers who barely register his presence and who complain about his car. Nezam is the worst off, reporting to a man who sends out workers to unclog and clean blocked bathrooms. The action stays with each in long, wordless stretches, as, for instance, Nezam pulls on his gloves and boots and primes the tool he uses to clear the pipes, only to have it not work and to be forced to reach into the filthiest toilet in Asalouyeh with his bare hands to find the stoppage. Afterward, he floats in the ocean, trying to get clean and to regain some sense of human dignity.

“Gesher” spends as much of it runtime, if not more, on the off hours of the three friends, who share a pipe facing the ocean (they have neighbors a few pipes down, and sometimes stop by to borrow bread). They run electricity off the battery of Jahan’s car at night, listen to music, call home, figure out ways to send cash to their wives by sewing it into stuffed animals, take dressing room pictures of themselves in clothes they can’t afford and compete in a race across the desert for money. And sometimes they just sit and look out at the ocean, and discuss, idly, what might be going on on the giant ships that have been parked out there for weeks.

“Gesher”‘s still camera, extreme deadpan and minimalist rhythms (the editing was supervised by Jafar Panahi) are manifestly art house, but its setting of small dramas against dwarfing backdrops recalls specifically, to me, the films of Jia Zhang-ke, which can similarly contrast the deeply human struggles of its characters against looming new world landscapes in which they seem destined to get lost. “Gesher” frequently poses its three protagonists against vast, monochromatic deserts or the glimmer of the lit refinery at night, flames belching out of burnoff vents like the Los Angeles cityscape of “Blade Runner.” There’s little narrative forward motion in the film — there’s little forward motion in these characters’ lives — and a dramatic incident involving the trio picking up a prostitute is shot in such an obscured way that it’s difficult to understand what’s transpiring. But as a spare portrait of an expanding world in which laborers are treated as interchangeably as machine parts, it packs a punch.

“Gesher” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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