Movie Review: No One Knows About Persian Cats

Score

Rambling but powerful docu-style drama about underground Iranian indie

Cert: 12A, 1hr46mins

Now, let’s get one thing straight about Take It Easy Hospital, the indie-rock band at the centre of this rather excellent documentary-style drama, which looks at the underground music scene of Iran, where rock music is banned. They’re not very good. Not awful, granted, but let’s just say the NME review (“dreaming is my reality,” trills one lyric) would not be kind.

Yet, it hardly matters. Because how good they are (and they’re a real band – this is a fictionalised account of their struggles) isn’t the point: it’s the fact they’re not allowed to do it. So we follow twin songwriters Ash Koshanejad and Negar Shaghagh as they attempt to get other band members together with a single dream – fake passports and visas permitting – of playing a gig in London. With [a]Arctic Monkeys[/a] and [a]Joy Division[/a] posters on their bedroom wall, they set out to visit recording studios hidden underground, bands who play in cow sheds and bands in sound-proof shacks on the top of buildings – all under the ever-present danger of being raided by the police. There’s even a cameo for NME. “I bought an NME,” says one, passing a well-thumbed copy like it’s the Holy Scrolls. “I’ve already read that one,” comes the reply.

There’s an easy swing to Persian Cats, winner of the Special Prize at Cannes, which feels both casual and immediate. Granted, this could have been awfully heavy-handed, but by keeping the focus close, making us really care about Take It Easy Hospital‘s fate, it never is. And when their music kicks in – as bad as it is, as derivative as it is, as clearly “2-star review” as it is – it suddenly doesn’t matter. It sounds amazing.

7 out of 10

Stuart McGurk