3 Faces is Jafar Panahi’s fourth film since the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Iran banned him from making movies for 20 years. (Let that sink in for a moment.) It may also be his biggest “fuck you” yet, because although he plays himself as he did in the previous three films, 3 Faces is the first in which he isn’t the subject. When a despondent young woman named Marziyeh sends a video to him and to famous actress Behnaz Jafari showing what appears to be Marziyeh committing suicide because her parents won’t let her go to an acting conservatory, Jafar and Behnaz drive to Marziyeh’s village near the Turkish border to investigate.
Though much of it is shot from a dashboard camera, 3 Faces is the closest thing to traditional narrative film Panahi had made in exile. The preoccupation is no longer Panahi’s own ultimately temporary restriction, but the systemic oppression of women in Iran, particularly as they explore a village in which masculinity is revered, such as the man who has four daughters but will go to great lengths to ensure his one son’s virility. As tends to be the case with Panahi’s work in exile, 3 Faces is about heavy things but never forgets to be funny, and it’s one of the best films of 2019.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.