I had that feeling sitting in my seat waiting for A Separation to begin that I have nearly every time I go to the movies, or try to have, that many writers have expressed better before than I will right now - that feeling that you're rooting for the entertainment you're about to experience. I don't normally go to the movies hoping for a bad time. I want the film to be good, and succeed at what it's attempting to do. Even more than that, I hold out the hope that it might be more - that it might move me, challenge me, engage me. I don't spend all this time yammering about movies for the hell of it - I am enthusiastic about these things, believe it or not!
I knew going in to A Separation that a whole lot of people were very very enthusiastic about it. Reviews have been pretty much universally exultant - 66 out of 66 fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes speaks pretty well (even if that is the devil's number). So I sat there in my chair waiting for the movie to start and I felt enthusiastic, like a kid at Christmas morning. I knew three things about the movie - it is Iranian, it involves a husband and wife splitting up (hence the title), and somebody had called it "Hitchcockian" (which I am ashamed to admit is a word - at this point a fairly lazy word - that even when slapped on the crappiest of crap will override all my senses and get me into the theater. Call something "Hitchcockian" and I just can't say no!). I'd purposefully avoided everything else because the first rule of "Hitchcockian" is you don't wanna know anything else.
So I was in a dangerous spot. Vulnerable, if you will. My expectations were high, yet all over the place. The film had half-founded hurdles to crawl over or under. Whatever would happen?
What would happen is the film would start and I would immediately forget everything else I was thinking about. From the very first shot, with the husband and wife pleading their dissonant cases directly to the camera (the camera being the judge - very "Hitchcockian" indeed) director Asghar Farhadi sucks us right into the drama effortlessly, and things only grow more complicated not only from scene to scene, but every shot is an accumulation - before you know it you're so wrapped up in what's going on with these folks lives, unravelling at one end and knotting up together at the other, that it's very nearly overwhelming.
I haven't been made this tense by a movie in awhile, where every angle the story shows you only splinters off into several other, where every character's point of view is expressed up to the point of emotional exhaustion. Our, the viewer's, emotional exhaustion, and exhilaration. This is a movie that makes you want to scream at the screen. Farhadi's camera puts you in these cramped rooms and cars, in the middle of these people, and involves you intimately. And he doles out the information masterfully - watch the way the camera captures the chaos of the scene's most pivotal confrontation, and yet stays precisely where it has to to keep the important information just the right amount of frustratingly vague to keep us entirely engaged.
So when I sit down excited to watch a new movie? This is what I am hoping for. This right here.