Set in a jerry-built low-rise in the suburbs of Tehran, "The Tenants" is a surprising, albeit labored, social satire imported from Iran. This contemporary look at the trouble with landlords and not so subtle allusion to national disharmony is said to be the most popular film in the history of Persian film -- not that it's apt to find a wide audience here.
Ezatolah Entezami stars as the unscrupulous Abbas, an apartment building manager in league with a nefarious realtor who plans to illegally evict the tenants and sell the building out from under them. But apartments, even with broken pipes and leaking sewage, are hard to find in the crowded metropolis, and the tenants, a tenacious and varied lot, won't budge. Then a rival real estate agent persuades the tenants to band together and they hire a construction crew to start making badly needed repairs on the rapidly disintegrating property.
The ensuing slapstick affords a mostly secular look at life in the Islamic republic, where the bickering just never seems to stop. The actors, apparently disciples of Curly, Larry and Moe, give Westerners an altogether different view of the Iranian Everyman. Though their heads are covered, the women have a strong say in the resolution of the dilemma, an ending that would make a developer's heart glad.
"The Tenants," written and directed by Darioush Mehrjui, is in subtitles when the subtitler feels like it -- and that is not when the sizable cast is squabbling at high speed. Something, but not everything, is lost in translation. A chase scene is a chase scene in any language.
The Tenants, at the Key, is unrated but suitable for family audiences.