Share This Page

Review: 'Cats' take tour of Tehran's underground music scene

Not rated; contains adult themes; 3.5 stars; showtimes

The brilliant Iranian Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi takes filmgoers on a breathless, revelatory tour of contemporary Tehran in "No One Knows About Persian Cats," his lightly fictionalized account of that city's vital underground music scene. Since making his U.S. debut with the 2000 drama "A Time for Drunken Horses," Ghobadi has emerged as a filmmaker whose gift for poetic realism was only equaled by an unerring sense of precisely when and how to break the viewer's heart. Hearts break in "No One Knows About Persian Cats," too, but they also soar.

Following the real-life musical duo Take It Easy Hospital (Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad) as they try to put together a band and arrange exit papers for a concert in London, Ghobadi uses the couple's madcap search as a conceit for his own exploration of Tehran's vibrant cultural and economic black market. With the help of a record producer and fixer named Nadar (Hamed Behdad), Negar and Ashkan embark on a subterranean tour of the city's cellars and side streets, where they find blues, fusion jazz, indie rock, heavy metal and traditional Iranian musicians performing and recording despite being officially banned by the Islamic Republic.

"No One Knows About Persian Cats" pulses with urgency, weaving through a society that seems to exist on two levels at once: the strict, censorious brand of Islamic fundamentalism enforced by the mullahs, and the secular, cosmopolitan world that thrives just beneath the surface. If it's initially startling to see someone wearing a CBGB T-shirt in "No One Knows About Persian Cats," that shock quickly wears off, as viewers become intimately familiar with a city bursting with contradictions and a palpable, if fragile, sense of defiance.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.