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REVIEW: No One Knows About Persian Cats

Exploring the lives of rock bands in Tehran

No One Knows About Persian Cats:
Rates a C
Courtesy photo

No One Here Gets Out Alive was a great title for the Jim Morrison biography, and No One Knows About Persian Cats is a great title for a film about the underground music scene in Tehran – especially after you see what the police do to a cute dog they catch in a musicians car.

The shorter titled Once is being talked about in comparison with this movie, only because it’s also a foreign film that deals with musicians. I thought Once was a lot better in every aspect.

That doesn’t mean this movie doesn’t have some great stuff. The songs are good, well…aside from the rap tune. Rap doesn’t work as well when you don’t know the language and are reading subtitles. One song reminds me of The Strokes, and another of Bob Welch (a bit more up-tempo and with a cool sounding organ).

I guess the variety of songs is a bit better than all the acoustic stuff on Once. And this movie does have a bit more excitement, as everywhere these kids go to play, there’s the threat of a police raid. That can come from a neighbor calling to complain about the noise, or a bored little kid with nothing better to do.

Okay, the premise of the story. A couple guys leave prison in Tehran and decide to start a band. They meet with lots of other musicians in other bands, trying to assemble a group that can play Europe and a few indie rock festivals. They have a connection to get them fake passports and visas. I can’t say more without spoiling it.

Sometimes the handheld camera approach they had gave a nice feel to the film. The videos of the city during the songs was interesting and clever, but did it have to be done for all six of the songs?

There are a few wonderful scenes that don’t over do it. One has the power going out on a band as they rehearse. Another has a group of musicians talking about what they wanted when they got rich and famous. That ranged from equipment (Ludwig drums, Rickenbacker bass)…to one guy who merely wanted to eat stew morning, noon, and night.

It’s interesting when they talk about their favorite musicians (Bill Brufford of Yes) or see them hanging in the background (Beatles and Nirvana). You realize struggling musicians are the same anywhere. Well, okay…not everywhere. As hard as it is to make it in the music business, I’m guessing no musician here in San Diego would argue that they have it tougher. There’s no Casbah to rock in Tehran. You’ll most likely end up getting rocked in jail or from 80 whips to the back.

One scene had a heavy metal band rehearsing in a barn with cows. I wasn’t sure if they were mooing or booing. But whether you like the song or not, you can appreciate the fact that these guys will practice anywhere they have the opportunity -- even if it means getting sick in the process.

The one scene in the movie I couldn’t figure out, was a woman that had amazing pipes. They showed her recording in a studio, but always so out of focus you couldn’t see anything.

The movie kept me entertained, probably because I’m a music nut. Grading on a curve for music lovers, I give it a C. Everyone else will probably like it less; or maybe not. The movie is scoring a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes!