Under self-appropriated exile from his native country of Iran, Bahman Mohassess is found by filmmaker Mitra Farahani residing in a hotel room. Now living in Rome, with the majority of his work destroyed out of frustration for his country’s censorship laws, his character has become a mysterious, legendary figure in Iran. What follows is an extremely candid, intimate look into the life and psyche of the Iranian painter from his point of view.
In Fifi Howls From Happiness (2013), Farahani was able to capture Bahman’s essence through conversations about painting, poetry, love and lust…and among other things, over many, many cigarettes. Scenes posthumously directed by the Iranian artist himself were weaved into the footage. These are Mohassess’ last words put to the screen in the exact fashion he wished. Not a will, but an insight into his eccentric thought process and way of being.
This film is perfect for those with a deep appreciation for art. Along with a rich dialogue between Mohassess and Farahani, the audience is stunned visually with a gallery of the painter’s works (paintings, sculptures, collages). The depth (and certainty) into which Bahman speaks of his creative process is inspiring. A man who could see himself doing nothing else than putting brush to canvas. It was embedded deep in his bones. The result is an honest, authentic body of work from his behalf that wasn’t always embraced by the Iranian government due to its blunt honesty.
Mohassess is a charismatic, demanding, chain-smoking homosexual. His art is beautiful, but few pieces remain. This is a portrait of a painter done by a filmmaker. The film is funny, hilarious at times, not without a sad ending, and most of all, humanly honest. An emotional pull in every direction, which makes for a truly wonderful.
Fifi Howls From Happiness will be playing at The Cinematheque on Oct. 4 (9:15 pm) and Oct. 6 (4:45 pm)