Jafar Panahi’s Taxi begins on an extended POV take of a taxi picking up passengers in Tehran. These passengers engage in a long debate over the ethics of execution as a deterrent of crime. It is a strangely humorous meditation in the poetic form of bickering.
Taxi is a series of vignettes told exclusively from the vantage point of the interior of Panahi’s taxi cab. It is a day in the life a taxi cab driver, who in this case is filmmaker Panahi playing himself. A Panahi fan, an injured man and his wife, a young inspiring filmmaker, a pirate film seller, and others all enjoy space inside the taxi during the film.
The movie plays as a cinema verite documentary. It delves into Iranian social politics amid its quietly comical interactions. It also engages with a meta-textual analysis of filmmaking in a culture that heavily censors film. This is seen wonderfully in an exchange between Panahi and his niece, who is absolutely delightful in the role.
Taxi is pragmatic and revelatory for a Western audience. It finds comedy in its realism in spite of its highly political nature and the nature of Panahi’s film career. In spite of a longstanding ban from making films, Panahi covertly filmed Taxi on the streets of Tehran with non-professional actors.
The film itself, then, becomes a social commentary film that openly defies government oppression. However, it isn’t plagued by its own political message. It is light on its feet, showing Panahi taking his political dissident status in stride.
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi is a heartening excursion. Not a narrative, per se, but a moving, semi-documentary depiction of life in the vein of Italian Neorealism. It is a wholly original and transcendent film experience.
Taxi is available to rent or buy on Amazon Video here.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Taxi? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)