Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine is a meandering meditation on the current state of Iranian culture.
Bahman Farjami (played by writer and director, Bahman Farmanara), has finally been allowed to make a film by the government censors. Under the guise of making a documentary about Iranian funeral rites for Japanese television, he explores the meaning of his life and the life of his country. His personal life becomes a metaphor for the collective experience of the Iranian people underneath the thick veneer of its "official" culture.The line in the opening monologue, "I do not fear death, I fear a futile life" carries the same impact as a subtitle as the same establishing line uttered by Rafe (played by Ben Affleck) in the recent Bay/Bruckenheimer disaster, Pearl Harbor. Meaninglessness leads to desperation leads to overcaffeinated neo-beatniks bemoaning the absurd necessity of continuing this farce of a life. Why go on? Farjami tries to answer this question for himself even as he is finally granted permission, after twenty years of rejection, to do what makes him feel most whole, film making.
The movie is filmed like a documentary of the making of a film. It is slow moving and demands a lot of attention and a little patience but for those who want to scratch below the surface to reap the rich rewards hiding in the corners of this film, its worth the 93 minutes of your time.This film doesn't try to win audience sympathy with melodrama or sentimentality. We are asked to simply be a witness. It's immense popularity in Iran may not carry over to an American audience but I think its important that a film like this is able to cross over an unnecessary political boundary.