This cinema tries to expand cinematic language through a new approach and different structure, but the same stories, themes and clichés as before. It is interesting to note that most of these films, at least in the beginning of this trend, not only utilize the elements of this established and public-oriented cinema, but also share common points in terms of point of view and content. Everything emerges from within the heart of those clichés. When Mass‘ud Kimia’i makes Qaysar in 1969, it actually issues from the heart of those existing clichés, but has evolved according to the outlook of an evolving audience, one with changed needs, demands and preferences. In reality, the Iranian cinema of the sixties reflects all the socio-cultural characteristics of its time: its fondness of and belief in the power of destiny which comes from the religiosity of this cinema and its film-makers, the presence of profound (and not superficial) individual and social differences, a degree of respect for traditional and native social values, focus on the challenges existing in an evolving society, namely the clash of tradition and modernity. This is a cinema that responds to the needs of its society. This response is in many cases unsuccessful and in many relatively successful. The percentage of success or failure is similar to any other national cinema.
The Third Period:
Iranian cinema of the seventies is not a well-delineated one, lacking a perceptible beginning or end. Perhaps its end can be traced to the fire in Abadan’s Rex cinema in the summer of 1978, but the beginnings are the socio-cultural and cinematographic problems that began before this event.
With the birth of New Wave cinema in Iran—which takes place in 1969—independent and national film production is divided into two branches:
The main body of cinema which confidently moves forward, and the young generation that has just come of age and are seeking art films and films d’auteur. The new cinema is fed by two sources: a young generation that has departed from the main body of popular and established cinema and hope to arrive at a fresher, newer, yet still popular and public-oriented cinema, with the potential to be transformed into an artistic medium; and another part of this young generation that have been educated in art and cinema abroad. They have gained experience in documentary cinema and in the cultural milieu of the sixties, and find themselves drawn to the cinematic medium as a tool of expression similar to poetry or painting. This second path not only leads to an intellectual and specific public-oriented cinema, but by being recognized in festivals and appreciated by the ever-increasing number of intellectuals and students practically threatens the existence of the main body of cinema.
The main body of public-oriented cinema has its own crises at the end of the sixties. Film production has become expensive and costs are mounting. The star system—an inevitable outcome of this sort of cinema—swallows up most of the production budget and destroys what little variety there may have existed. The import of foreign films is uncontrolled and very cheap. The surplus in oil revenues, which Iran does not know how to spend, has brought a certain superficial social affluence. Urban society is mostly constituted of an affluent middle-class, which through contact with abroad is experiencing another shift in consumption patterns, needs and demands. All this apparent social development, alongside the real and visible cultural growth that takes place in the sixties, creates a large gap between the intellectual class and the rest of society. The general public and the middle classes are no longer satisfied with what they see in films. The cinemas are filled with vulgar foreign films. Sex and violence inevitably get out of proportion, for by the early seventies cinema is thinking only of its own survival. This very survival instinct, the unbalanced competition with foreign films, the preservation of old clichés and the increase of popular elements—in their most degraded state—all bring about the regression of this cinema. The absence of future planning, coupled with the failure to understand society, i.e., the spectator whom the films addresses, brought the downfall of Iranian cinema (and not only general public-oriented cinema, but also specific and intellectual cinema), even before the fire of Abadan’s Rex cinema. 1974 and 1975 were critical years in terms of quantity and quality for Iranian cinema.