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Rethinking a life in 'Moonlight'

October 18, 2002|KEVIN THOMAS

In its quiet way, Reza Mir-Karimi's "Under the Moonlight" is courageous and daring, for while it upholds Islam, it reveals the extreme hardship of those left behind in an Islamic society. It has the simplicity typical of Iranian films of social comment: The central figure faces an unexpected loss or challenge that propels him on a mission that passes through a revealing cross section of people and circumstances.

Hossein Parastar stars as Sayyed Hassan, a young rural seminarian who arrives in Tehran with an instantly frowned-upon sports magazine and cell phone in hand to take the final step in becoming a clergyman to please his father. The seminary's abiding concern for form in precise detail causes Sayyed to question the course of his life, yet he goes ahead and orders the long robe and turban he must have for his ordination ceremony. He picks up the completed garments, only to have them stolen aboard a subway by Jojeh (Chick), a resilient little street urchin.

His pursuit of Chick leads him to a community of homeless men who have set up a makeshift camp under a highway bridge on the outskirts of Tehran, which proves to be a transforming experience for Sayyed. "Under the Moonlight" is overly preachy and maudlin but is saved by its obvious sincerity and forthright sense of purpose, and further enhanced by its rich color cinematography.

*

Exclusively at the Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. In Farsi with English subtitles. Unrated. Mature themes.

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