Despite its perfectly befitting narrative set-up, and however enjoyable it is to watch, Abbas Kiarostami’s A Suit for Wedding doesn’t entirely live up to its potential. Three working-class apprentices secretly “borrow” an expensive suit from the tailor shop that employs one of the boys. There is some (heated) debate about who will wear the suit for the night. The next morning, a mad scramble ensues to return the suit in one piece before the boss shows up. This mid-’70s minor work is rarely mentioned in Kiarostami discussions, perhaps because his other films have explored similar themes with better results. But A Suit for Wedding succeeds as a contagious, piquant comedy, especially in the scenes where the boys irascibly negotiate back-scratching deals with one another. The film’s narrative scaffolding could not be more supportive of Kiarostami’s early thematic preoccupations (upward social mobility, male adolescent temerity, the accomplishment of small but important feats), but its interior construction lacks some of the warmth and soul of his later films. By splitting the Kiarostami hero into three personalities, the opportunity for strong character identification gives way to comedic, competitive interactions between frenemies.
As he does in other films about children, Kiarostami explores communication barriers between generations: A Suit for Wedding features, of course, the half-hearted solidarity between the three boys who set up special deals for each other, but it’s not without its fair share of squabbles, especially when the tailor apprentice has to decide who gets to borrow the suit for the night (fisticuffs finds a winner in the most belligerent kid, who wears it to a magic show). The children’s silence towards their elders complements the secret rendezvous very well, during which silence is reflected back to them by their equally dismissive, condescending parents and employers. Parents in Kiarostami films don’t have trouble talking about their children—analyzing their myriad failures is a national pastime. When they must speak directly to their kids, however, humane treatment becomes impossible. What can their children learn from this arrangement, then, other than to freely speak only with their peers? There are, of course, the knowing glances the boys direct at other characters their age, including the upper-class boy whose suit they steal, and a doting, quiet girl who is the oldest kid’s belle. But these characters can barely be called their peers, for generational differences mark only the first interpersonal obstacle in Kiarostami’s universe; the second and third are class and gender. Operating within a boys club is the only form of acceptable social communication in the small humdrum world of these three kids.
The ending and climax could not be possible without a sudden, jarring social critique, when one of the kids’ fathers physically punishes him for staying out all night. We sense it’s only a matter of nano-seconds before the father will question his son about his new suit, when rage clears away the fog and restores vision. The suit, having been through quite an adventure itself, has been subjected not only to three different wearers, but also two fights, spilled blood, and wet magic tricks; as a result, it’s more than a little worn down. Kiarostami teases us with several intense moments in which adult characters seem all but certain to spot the shenanigans of the three troublemakers, but in order for it all to fit into his social critique, his ending can only be an ostensibly “happy” one for the children—the adults are too busy fretting over other matters to know the real mischief their children are up to. An argument among the adults is sufficient distraction for the humble tailor apprentice to fix and return the suit, just in the nick of time before his boss shows up. The children get away scot-free, our anxiety for them eases, but as the credits rolls we begin to wonder if the obliviousness of the adults in Kiarostami’s films is more curse than blessing. In this simple but telling narrative, Kiarostami forces us to ponder that question on our own.