December 18, 2003

House of Sand and Fog – Movie Review

A Symphony of Colliding Entanglements
By Fred H. Arm
House of Sand and Fog is probably one of the best pictures of our time, yet does not really become obvious until after you have had time to digest the roller coaster of sensations you are drawn into. Vadim Perelman, the first-time director and writer of the screenplay adaptation, is a maestro of storytelling orchestration and visual interplays. The film is like a massive body of water slowly beginning to spin a whirlpool of tragic circumstances into a larger and larger vortex. The piano concerto sound track is alive with crackling tension and conflict spinning a web of incredible intensity and drama. At first one experiences the inertia of the story unfolding too slowly, so characteristic of many foreign movies. You want the film to move along at a faster pace, yet the pull of the vortex and the acting are so powerful, you allow it to carry you reluctantly to its intended finale.


BEN KINGSLEY brilliantly portrays Massoud Amir Behrani, an exiled Iranian Colonel once within the Shah’s inner circle, who lives a lie to fulfill his dreams. Behrani pretends to his family he is successful, when in reality he must hold down two menial jobs just to make ends meet. One fine day he seizes upon an opportunity to purchase a home at a foreclosure sale at bargain basement prices that is similar to his dream bungalow in Iran on the Caspian Sea. The home belongs to Kathy Nicolo, JENNIFER CONNELLY, a lost soul who has neglected to attend to her business affairs thus allowing the County to mistakenly evict her in a tragic unfolding of circumstances.

Nicolo and Behrani are equally intractable, adhering rigidly to their respective positions in a callous and grueling battle of wills that will engender the audience's heartfelt sympathies. Both are equally hampered by intractable financial situations, both are unfortunate victims of coalescing destinies. Which one of the protagonists will prevail? You must see for yourself the surprising and unforgettable conclusion of this nightmarish chronicle.

RON ELDARD (Black Hawk Down) plays Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon, who tries to take the law into his own hands; SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO as Behrani’s wife Nadi; and JONATHAN AHDOUT as their son Esmail; provide supporting roles that more than enhance the immense acting performances of Kingsley and Connelly.

This movie is a frightening saga rife with a Shakespearean type tragedy precipitated by bureaucratic bungling of the county government. The story explodes profoundly with American realism that clashes rudely with agonizingly raw honesty. It focuses firmly and steadily on the two principle characters, both so radically different in cultural backgrounds and status, however, each ensnared by the not-so-different emotionally challenging situations. From a strictly legal point of view, one can easily challenge and vilify the ineptitude of the heroine and the absurdity of the County, however, that flaw aside, it is immaterial to the beauty and transcendence of this film. Kingsley and Connelly present astounding performances that will not soon be forgotten. This film has Oscar nominations written all over it.

Open December 26th in Bay Area theaters.

Posted by fredarm at December 18, 2003 05:24 PM
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