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17 Days to Execution 

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17 Days to Execution 

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A milestone feature adapted by a famous film critic from Cornell Woolrich’s Phantom Lady. After quarreling with his wife, a man spends an aimless evening with a woman me meets in a café. The two attend a cabaret show together but never exchange names. He returns home to find the police in his apartment, and a detective reveals to him that his wife has just been murdered. The phantom lady from the café becomes his alibi, but no one from that night seems to remember her.

Amir Houshang Kavousi, a critic who prided himself on his taste, touted this film as the first true policier made in Iran. The source material makes good sense for a critic aspiring to establish the crime film in Iran. At the time that Kavousi was in preproduction, the most famous Woolrich adaptation, Rear Window (1954) was making top ten lists in auteurist film journals around the world. Iranian film magazines gave significant attention to Hitchcock’s adaptation and to translated summaries of Woolrich’s novel. The relentless and fatalistic Phantom Lady, which had been adapted as a radio play and film by Robert Siodmak, provided a complement for those who wanted to know more. Siodmak’s adaptation enjoyed a long run in Paris when Kavousi was a film student there. This source material provided an opportunity for Kavousi to showcase his knowledge of noir fiction, to experiment with visual style, and to demonstrate his facility with the mechanisms of the policier plot.

Woolrich’s stories may have been exciting to adapt, but the specific plot of Phantom Lady presented problems for an adaptation in Iran. The plot flips the usual process of detection and conviction. The courtroom scene ends, with a death sentence, by the end of what would become the screenplay’s first act.

Kavousi’s title references the fatalistic plotting in which each of the novel’s chapter titles counts down to the day of his execution. A second detection plot is initiated by the man’s paramour, whose relationship with him had provided the prosecutor with a motive. It is a wrong-man plot combined with a gaslight plot, with its typical climactic scenes presented out of order. A fan of hard-boiled fiction might find its reversals and restructurings of detection plots inventive, but without such context, it is an odd text even before being translated. Negative reviews of 17 Days in the Iranian film press that this aspect of the plot pushes the limits of suspension of disbelief. They also question the love relationships in the film, struggling to make sense of how the hero of the story managed relations with three women simultaneously: his wife, his lover, and the stranger at the café. These relationships were implausible to reviewers, especially considering that the story was meant to portray the main character as a vulnerable and precarious investigator. The circumstances of the protagonist misaligned with forms of masculinity readily at hand in popular genre films made in Iran.

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Cinema Iranica (April 14, 2024) 17 Days to Execution . Retrieved from https://cinema.iranicaonline.org/article/17-days-to-execution/.
"17 Days to Execution ." Cinema Iranica - April 14, 2024, https://cinema.iranicaonline.org/article/17-days-to-execution/
Cinema Iranica December 3, 2023 17 Days to Execution ., viewed April 14, 2024,<https://cinema.iranicaonline.org/article/17-days-to-execution/>
"17 Days to Execution ." Cinema Iranica - Accessed April 14, 2024. https://cinema.iranicaonline.org/article/17-days-to-execution/