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Godfrey Cheshire, film critic and author of the volume Conversations with Kiarostami, describes A Wedding Suit as “a gem-like masterpiece that anticipates the accomplishments” of Abbas Kiarostami’s later work.1. Running at just under an hour and focused primarily on the activities of a single shopping arcade, the film indeed feels contained in the manner of a gem. It concerns three working-class boys living in Tehran: Ali, Mamad and Hossein. The latter two boys learn that Ali, a tailor’s apprentice, is minding a suit made for a middle-class boy named Reza and decide to steal it for a night. This simple conceit allows Kiarostami to explore a number of interests that would become key to his authorship. We can, for instance, observe the spark of ideas relating to childhood, mobility (one of the film’s most dialogue-heavy scenes takes place entirely on the back of a motorbike) and the synthesis of fiction and reality. Perhaps the most profound feature of Kiarostami’s authorship that A Wedding Suit anticipates is the issue of class. 

Kiarostami accesses this issue through another hallmark of his filmmaking: the orchestration of suspense. The scene of the suit’s capture is conveyed in a series of static, relatively silent shots taken from an upper balcony of the shopping arcade. We watch Ali and Hossein negotiate the transfer of the suit at a distance, and thus with added attention and a keen sense of our inability to intervene. The sense of tension invoked here is also present in the scene of the suit’s return: a shot-reverse-shot sequence between upper and lower levels of the arcade convey Ali’s anxious wait for Mamad, who is now wearing the suit. Kiarostami extends the suspense of this latter scene for some time. Soon after Mamad arrives at the arcade he is spotted by his father, who knows he has stolen the suit. He promptly scolds and slaps his son, leaving Mamad with a bloody nose that tarnishes the suit. This delay redoubles the scene’s tension; the viewer is not only impatient to see whether the suit will arrive back to the tailor’s shop in time, but also whether Reza will notice the speck of blood on its pants. These scenes draw associations to the work of another auteur, Alfred Hitchcock, whom Kiarostami has dubbed one of the most popular foreign filmmakers in Iran (the other being Akira Kurosawa).2. The level of suspense generated here is comparable to that found in a Hitchcock film, and the use of the shopping arcade—a square structure with a hollow interior—as a stage for the action recalls Rear Window specifically. Such an allusion is illuminating about Kiarostami’s influences and the political slant of his work; the director seeks to confer importance upon the working class through his filmmaking, such that, in his view, these boys are as deserving of cinematic treatment as James Stewart or Grace Kelly. 

Kiarostami also explores the issue of class through the suit itself. One way in which he does so is by drawing connections between the suit and middle class agency. The tailor for whom Ali works, Hussan, remarks that the fabric Reza has selected for the suit is much like the one he had chosen for a previous fitting. Reza’s mother replies, “If it’s what he likes, I can’t say no. He must learn how to make his own decisions, to make his own way in life.” With this exchange Kiarostami tacitly suggests that such autonomy is granted only to those with the means to purchase a tailor-made suit. Mamad and Hossein covet the suit for this very reason; they wish to experience the sense of status that it brings. Mamad accordingly wears the suit to a magic show and volunteers to take part in a trick on stage, seizing the opportunity to show off his social standing. When the boy appears before his father in the suit the next morning, the latter expresses shame not only at Mamad’s thieving but also his want for such an expensive object in the first place. “He’s gotten a new suit,” he yells “and me… I haven’t touched a new shirt in ages.” The subtext here is that men of Mamad’s lineage can’t afford to concern themselves with fine clothes. 

Rather, Mamad and other members of his class relate to the suit as an object of labour. It is telling, for instance, that where Reza’s mother reflects on her son’s future through his choice of fabric, Hussan uses uses the fabric to mark the more sturdy passage of lived time. He knows that it has been two years since Reza purchased a suit because of the availability of this particular fabric. This detail illustrates Hussan’s regard for the suit as a practical object, one composed of components that are subject to production, and dually demonstrates his expertise as a tailor. Kiarostami’s respect for this trade is evident in the scene where Hussan takes the measurements for Reza’s suit. Hussan moves the tape measure along Reza’s figure and notes the dimensions with a dexterity redolent of the magician depicted later in the film. ‘Why is one profession considered menial while the other is performed on stage before an audience?’, Kiarostami seems to ask. As Hussan reads out the measurements to Ali, who records them dutifully, the director poses a related question: why is one child fitted for a suit while another must contribute to its production? Scenes of Ali, Mamad and Hossein performing physical tasks involved in the creation of garments are dotted throughout the film: Mamad operates a large mechanical device that threads string onto spools, and then later carries tall piles of fabric to a neighbouring seamstress; Ali and Hossein do fine needle work. The depiction of such behind the scenes activities reminds us of the suit’s profound materiality for the working class. The ending of A Wedding Suit is instructive about this point, as well as a final feature of Kiarostami’s work: a sense of playfulness. As Reza’s mother exits the tailor’s shop, suit in hand, she extends a silver coin to Ali as a tip.

Lebassi Baraye Arossi/A Wedding Suit (1976 Iran 54 mins)

Prod Co: Kanun-e Parvaresh-e Fekri Kukadan va Nujavanan Dir: Abbas Kiarostami Scr: Abbas Kiarostami, Parviz Davayi Phot: Firooz Malekzadeh Ed: Musa Afshar, Abbas Kiarostami Sound: Changiz Sayad

Cast: Hashem Arkan, Mohammad Fassih, Reza Hashemi, Mehdi Nekoueï, Massoud Zand

Endnotes

  1. Godfrey Cheshire quoted in David Hudson, “Godfrey Cheshire’s Conversations with Kiarostami,” The Criterion Collection, https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/6505-godfrey-cheshire-s-conversations-with-kiarostami
  2. Abbas Kiarostami, “Abbas Kiarostami Meets Akira Kurosawa • Cinephilia & Beyond,” Cinephilia & Beyond, February 3, 2015, https://cinephiliabeyond.org/abbas-kiarostami-meets-akira-kurosawa/