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Movie review: 'Dog Sweat'

Rebellion takes various forms for the characters in this Iran-set film.

November 18, 2011|By Sheri Linden
  • Tahereh Azadi (Katie) and Mohamadreza Sadeghi (Bijan) in "Dog Sweat."
Tahereh Azadi (Katie) and Mohamadreza Sadeghi (Bijan) in "Dog Sweat." (Deluxe Art Films / Deluxe…)

Young adults are caught between Old World tradition and personal fulfillment in "Dog Sweat," a multistrand feature set in Tehran and shot there surreptitiously. Whatever personal risks first-time director Hossein Keshavarz took to make the film, there's little sense of danger in the finished product, which offers snapshots of middle-class Iran but falls flat on the dramatic front.

Rebellion takes various forms for the characters. Three pals seek black-market alcohol, or "dog sweat." A young woman records a song — secretly, because female singers are banned. A student returns home from stateside film school to find his feminist sister involved with a married man, and their mother trying to keep her locked in the house.

The most nuanced performance belongs to Rahim Zamani as Homan, who can only watch as his boyfriend gives in to parental pressure to marry. This year's "Circumstance" — directed by Keshavarz's sister, and on which he served as an associate producer — explored a similar turn of events from the distaff side. "Dog Sweat" has less emotional effect because the crosscutting among characters has a diluting effect. They emerge not as full-blooded individuals but as symbols of yearning youth, at odds with a repressive society.

If "Dog Sweat" simplifies the cultural push-pull its characters face, at its strongest, and saddest, it makes plain that "battling the world," as one character puts it, can prove too much, even for youthful, educated rebels.

"Dog Sweat." No MPAA rating. In Persian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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