Shirin (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Now here's a real test of your mettle.

I thought Abbas Kiarostami's amazing Ten pushed the envelope, with its camera fixed on a woman behind the wheel of her car. But at least she was on the move, and talking to her passengers. Shirin is austerity itself, a 90-minute sequence of close-ups on the faces of an Iranian cinema audience as they sit and watch a movie. No cutaways, just those faces – and only one of them, Juliette Binoche, recognisable to Westerners. The film they're watching is based on a Persian poem about a star-crossed Armenian princess, and Shirin simply monitors the emotional reactions – a twitch, a smile – which the drama provokes on each physiognomy. The cast, incidentally, are all female, though men can be glimpsed in seats here and there. Why all women? Because, says the director, "they are more beautiful, complicated and sensational". Cheers! It becomes quite mesmerising, though you really do have to enjoy looking at women's faces.