What to say about “Taboor,” a film that feels as if it was beamed down from a backwards Earth? This maddening low-fi fantasy seems to share its DNA with “Holy Motors” in a story that revolves around the unpredictable actions of a man who keeps escaping definition. At first, he’s just a frail, elderly gentleman waking in the late evening and applying his uniform, headed to work. Until you realize his clothes might as well be a costume of sorts, a puffy silver body suit folded upon itself with massive, slick collar. Is this man a superhero?
He might as well be. The night seems to cough him up as he speeds into the darkness on his motorcycle, wearing the same sternly-serious expression. With dead silence (the lines he speaks could be counted on two hands), the knee-jerk reaction is to suggest, this guy’s got swagger. His “missions” as they were keep evolving over the night, though what’s clear is that he’s fulfilling appointments. But whatever menial tasks he’s fulfilling (menial in that there seem to be no surprises, and no one is especially thrilled to see him) seem to fly in the face of his appearance: exceptionally well-groomed beard and a thick helmeted silver mane stretching across his head. All the while, he remains silent, but his eyes stay fixed, intense.
Writer-director Vahid Vakilifar seems like a strange duck indeed, and portions of “Taboor” seem to suggest a marriage of the every-day otherworldliness of Alejandro Jodorowsky and the dream-like serenity of David Lynch. Vakilifar is fond of the two-shot that suggests a forced perspective, making Taboor something of a conduit for the needs and hopes of others, whether it be a quick repair to the facilities, or as a pawn for a peculiar game they might want to play.
Outside descriptions claim “Taboor” is taking place in a future world of Iran. I’m not entirely sure about the futuristic aspect, though there’s certainly something of a science fiction idea behind the film. The very first shot where Taboor slowly gets dressed seems to be occurring in a room lined with foil, suggesting the sort of low-rent spaceship David Bowie would fly in “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” Similarly, Taboor “unwinds” (though he never looks anything other than serene) by taking in a 3D virtual reality ride into an underground cave, hosted by an old-timey prospector who speaks riddles in English. Could this be Taboor’s attempt to reconnect with the past? Or is the old man’s warnings about sacred ground speaking of Taboor’s own need to avoid interacting with his subjects? Are Taboor’s rituals “surrender”?
Throughout this inscrutable film, we remain fixated on the crevasses and valleys of star Mohammad Rabbanipour‘s face, a masterpiece of construction contrasted with the overwhelming cityscapes seen above most of the film’s exteriors. Given his automaton behavior, Taboor could simply be just another creation of an industrial world. The fact that he speaks only of medical conditions and metaphors suggests, unlike his surroundings, he’s developed the ability to heal. One could argue that, given the downbeat, often frightening “Taboor,” his task may be futile; machines can’t teach themselves to rebuild. [B+]