The title Frontier Blues refers to the lonely landscape and the vast isolation of the Steppes, which serves as the barren backdrop for the different lives of four Iranian men. Each story is ordinary, but void of the human connection that they all so obviously need.
Hassan connects with the audience first while showing us his box of license plates, which he collects when he’s not combing or cleaning or simply walking about with his other obsession, his pet donkey. Hassan wanders uselessly while claiming to be very busy, and carries a cassette player that plays Francois Hardy’s Tous les Garcons et Les Filles, which is indeed so lovely that locals give him free rides in the back of a truck in exchange for hearing the beautiful ballad.
He lives with his shop-owning uncle who receives so little satisfaction at his business that much of his time is spent gazing at his own monotonous ceiling fans. Hassan eventually goes to work with Alam, who works on a chicken farm while also learning English so that he can escape one day, he prays, by boat with the Persian woman for whom he has fallen.
And finally there’s the minstrel who still holds a torch for his wife, even though she ran off with a guy in a green Mercedes Benz three decades before. He poses throughout the film with four young boys for a photojournalist wishing to make a series about Turkmen in their regular habitat, a move that shows off the incredible craftsmanship that has gone into shooting this film.
This is a slow-going production, because of its delicate message of despair told so tenderly, but one that is still favourably received for its thoughtfulness. It isn’t harrowing, but may make you sad, and it isn’t a happy film, but it may make you smile.
Kelly Rae Smith
Monday 21 June, 12.15, Cineworld
Tuesday 22 June, 13.55, Cineworld