Gaav, or The Cow, is one of those rare films that technically could’ve made the list for two separate reasons: importance, and greatness. That both are combined in a single film is what, to me, makes this one particularly special. It’s important due to the fact that Iranian cinema might not have existed beyond the point that this film was made were it not for this film, and especially that the Ayatollah Khomeini was such a fan of it. Also, the film is just a really good film all around, especially given the atmosphere and setting that it was made in, so this really is a win-win, in pretty much the exact definition of the term.
Hassan lives in a small Iranian village, who all know him thanks to the fact that he owns the only cow in the village. He adores the cow a great deal, so when he takes leave of the village for a short while and, shortly after, one of the villagers finds the cow killed in the barn, all the villagers agree to bury the cow and tell Hassan that the cow had run away, rather than kill his spirit by telling him of the animal’s death. Filled with grief, it takes one day for Hassan to lose his mind and start believing he actually is the cow, and the villagers are unsure of what to do with him. This film was surprisingly well done for a film that essentially invented or reinvented Iranian cinema. Director Dariush Mehrjui certainly knows what he’s doing in setting up the story and characters; never does the film feel phony or insincere. Also, for such an apparently small production, Mehrjui manages to have a lot of assets at his disposal. A lot of people are involved in the film, at least in front of the camera, and the film, for being made in a cinematic third-world country at the time, looks and feels quite well done. Really, the only complaint I had with the film was that the conclusion felt like a massive anti-climax, but to some, that might be the preferable ending, so I won’t hold it against the film too much.
It can be reasonable to say that the modern day age of Iranian cinema, with directors like Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, may very well have never existed if not for the success of this film. That speaks a lot as to the significance of this one, and it might create raised expectations, which admittedly the film may not match, but looking at the film on its own merits, it’s a fine film in just about every regard. When a film is designated important, and also manages to be fairly entertaining and watchable the whole way through, I can get to be quite appreciative of its efforts. Not everyone will like this as much as I did, but at the very least, I hope you can appreciate it as much as I did.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10