With “Hit the Road” a star is born.
“Hit The Road” begins with one of the most memorable opening scenes in recent memory. In a glorious and inventive piece of true cinema magic, director Panah Panahi immediately makes his mark as we are introduced to the four members of an unnamed Iranian family – mother (Pantea Panahiha), father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons (Amin Simir and Rayan Sarlak) – whose car is stopped on the side of a busy Iranian highway on a hot summer’s day. With gorgeously fluid and inventive editing touches we make the acquaintance of each of them and the adorable family dog in the back seat.
An Iranian Road Movie
We have no idea at first what is going on but, as the family drive up into the mountains, we realize that they are heading towards a border crossing and the older son will be leaving the country. There is an air of melancholy as we settle into what then becomes an Iranian road movie. With wide-angle longshots Panahi (who is the son of Jafar Panahi who made the stunning “The White Balloon” before he was put under house arrest) lovingly captures every precious moment of what may be the family’s last trip together.
If these moments are an homage to his father and traditional Iranian cinema, Panahi also has a delicious and infections pop sensibility which is expressed mostly through the character of the younger son (Sarlak). He is quite the little actor, singer and, in one amazing sequence, lip syncer par excellence.
There are times when Panahi just cannot contain himself and the camera just escapes, for want of a better word, surging across the Iranian desert.
This is filmmaking of the highest order which will touch the heart of any cinema lover. A new star is born.