Women Without Men Shabnam Tolouei, Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad, Orsi Toth Director: Shirin Neshat With the recent revelations of the Iranian state's continuing oppression of women by its draconian penal code, Shirin Neshat's film is a timely exploration of the roots of the patriarchical tyranny reigning in the country. With its intertwining stories of four women victimised by chauvinist folly, Women Without Men is at once cutting social critique and a visual feast matching the magical realism of the Shahrnush Parsipur novel on which it is based. The film also bears all the aesthetic hallmarks of the photographic and video-installation work the New York-based Neshat was well-known for. Set in 1953 amid the downfall of Mohammed Mossadegh's reformist government, the film revolves around four women traumatised by men in different ways. The politically active Munis (Shabnam Tolouei) is shackled by her monstrous tyrant of a brother, who forbids her to leave the house or listen to the radio and tries to send her off in an arranged marriage. Her good friend, Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni), is sick with love for the same brother, but finds herself scarred by events in a back street. Then there's Zarin (the scarily emaciated Hungarian actor Orsi Toth), a prostitute humiliated by her clients and the fiery owner of the brothel she works in. And living closer to the establishment is Fakhri (Arita Shahrzad), the middle-aged wife of a top-ranked general whose parochial politics are matched by his ultra-conservative sexist views. After being visited by death, violence and angst, the four women eventually end up in an orchard, the haven of the final sequence that magnifies the surreal visual and storytelling traits that have gone before. In a dreamlike banquet, Mossadegh sings, guests talk freely and even the military officers who arrive to crush the revelry and arrest dissidents join in the festivities. It's just one of Neshat's many other-worldly touches to a tragic tale addressing a very real state of events. Another well-composed scene is the opening in which Munis hovers on her roof, her agitation building with the calls to prayer around her, before proceeding with her escape. By weaving such artful tableaux into political commentary, the film adds to the melancholy of a grim future foretold. Extras: interview with Neshat; trailer.