For a short while, Majid Majidi was my favorite Iranian filmmaker.

But then again, for a while, he was the only Iranian filmmaker that I could name.

I’m still a beginner when it comes to international cinema, but while I’ve found other Iranian artists whose work is more exciting for me, I’m still eager to check out anything this director does. I suspect that if any Iranian filmmaker is likely to win a big following in America, it’s Majidi. And his new film is winning some persuasively enthusiastic reviews.

You can see it in HD here.

Interested yet?

How about this: A few months ago, my friend John Wilson (editor of Books and Culture) asked me if I’d seen it yet. He was enthusiastic about it. Today, when I checked in with him about it, he wrote back:

Yes, our oldest daughter, Anna, and I saw The Song of Sparrows at the Chicago film festival last fall. It’s one of the finest films I’ve seen in the last decade. What’s special about it? So many opposites held in tension. It’s a film of surpassing visual splendor, yet so self-effacing as to seem artless. The story unfolds with the formality of a sonnet, but its materials are the humble stuff of everyday life, with family and work at the center. It is a parable with a clear lesson to impart, and an enigma as mysterious as the human heart.

And then there is the piety that runs through Majidi’s films in an unselfconscious way we almost never encounter in films from America or Europe. I don’t know what he believes or doesn’t believe. But his central characters believe, they pray, they cry out to God. His films are always grounded in the quotidian, but they always have a sense of “more.”

I loathe the routine hype that infects so much of our talk about writers and filmmakers and songwriters and painters. But some art really is great—it demands to be recognized as such, not to create a cult of personality but “objectively,” you might say. I think Majidi is one of the great artists of our time.

Personally, I found Majidi’s Children of Heaven and The Color of Paradise to be vivid, moving stories — Iranian tales with emotional flourishes I’m inclined to call “Spielbergian” — I’m very, very curious about Sparrows.

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