There are films that are challenging and there are films that are off-putting. “Taboor,” an exercise in endurance from Iranian filmmaker Vahid Vakilifar is, unfortunately, in the latter camp. Its prime effort – to remain as obtuse as possible – ultimately tears down what little narrative structure exists. While there is, indeed, a discernible tone, the squared-off shots and spooky sound effects are just not enough to save the picture. I'll grant Vakilifar that his intentions are artistic, it's just that there isn't enough meat on the bone to make suffering through the artifice a worthwhile endeavor.
Meat – sizzling meat, in fact – factors into “Taboor.” At the thirty-minute mark a steak is thrown on a grill and, as we watch it cook in real time, the first of two sequences involving spoken words commences. I hesitate to say dialogue, because it is just an off-screen character offering a smidge of context.
By this point we've seen an older man get out of bed in a room with aluminum foil wallpaper. He gets into an aluminum foil suit of armor, then puts his clothes on over this, then gets on a motor scooter to enter a dark city.
He walks through empty, industrial buildings, spraying for bugs. At one point he finds a collapsed person and helps get him to an ambulance. This is when the steak-cooker explains that “exposure” is destroying our nightrider, and soon his skin will begin to blister apart.
He continues his task until dawn, at which point he makes a decision that seems something of a rebuke to Beckett's quote “You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.”
Many of the shots are elegantly framed. (And thank God for that, since they go on forever.) There's a Lynchian-on-paper moment where a dwarf fires a pellet gun down a long hallway at our hero as he wears a bucket on his head. There's also a lengthy POV sequence of one of those thrill rides where the seat moves and you watch a video screen. (The sole chuckle of the film goes to the ol' West gold miner within the ride who may or may not be Randy Quaid.)
There are also some “Hearts of Space”-esque experiments in sound design. If you listen very, very closely during a scene in an elevator you can hear Vangelis' “Love Theme From Blade Runner.” (The producer in me wonders if they have the rights. It's so, so soft in the background, but I swear on everything I own that it is in there.)
Listen: I love movies that get you in “the Zone.” Say, for example, Andrei Tarkovsky's “Stalker” (which actually takes place in “the Zone!”) in which a slow, dreamlike haze permeates each scene. Furthermore I respect a movie for sticking to its guns and delivering a very precise vision. “Taboor” is, I'm sure, exactly the movie Vakilifar wanted to make. So, I'm not gonna be that philistine who wants to call bullshit, but I will be discerning in my taste and say that this specific example of narrative-light, mood-heavy filmmaking is just not for me.
I came away from “Taboor” feeling blank. Blank and a little sleepy. I spoke with a person who liked it on the grounds that it was an interesting look at a post-apocalyptic world. There's nothing in the text to definitively state that it is a post-apocalyptic world. Who is to say there isn't a nutty nighttime exterminator out there wearing aluminum foil? My ultimate position is this: there are plenty of rewarding but “difficult” films in the world worth challenging yourself to watch. This isn't one of them.
SCORE: 3.5 / 10