Demonstrating the old saw that film can bridge cultural differences and shows us what people around the globe have in common, Santouri the Music Man reveals that junkies are the same the world over, and so, remarkably, are movies about junkies. In this Iranian drama, we get the usual jumbled chronology (the better to convey the addict’s addled mind), the betrayal of loved ones, the raging fights, the agonies of withdrawal (every actor’s delight) and the gradual slide from the early thrill of a good high to utter abasement in search of a fix.
Ali (Radan) has a long way to fall. He’s a highly respected musician, singing and playing the santour (a cousin of the hammered dulcimer). But, as Mehrjui chronicles in an unnecessarily complicated structure of flashbacks, demon smack takes all that from him.
The best stuff in the movie has nothing to do with drugs. There’s real joy and lovely detail in Ali’s courtship of Hanieh (Farahani), who will become his wife and eventually leave him. And a scene in which he teaches her the basics of the santour is fascinating, both for pure information and because it shows Ali’s passion for music. But Santouri is not a film about music. It’s about a junkie. And we all know how that story goes.