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Karimi, Nosratallah

Karimi, Nosratallah

Date of birth
     23 December 1925, Tehran, Iran

Director | Writer | Actor

Nosrat Karimi (December 23rd, 1925, Tehran, Iran)

Nosrat Karimi is one of the most important personalities in the Iranian history of theatre and cinema.
After receiving his formal education at Tehran's Drama School, he began his career as make-up artist and actor.

From the 1940s to the beginning of the 1950s, he played numerous roles in various theatres. Between 1953 and 1964, Karimi lived in Europe.

He studied film direction in Prague, in particular puppet and animation movies, and worked as an assistant director and actor in Rome.

Returning to Tehran, Karimi embarked on a new career as a director, scriptwriter, and, last but not least, as an actor.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he made a number of movies and TV films ("The Life", "The Carriage Driver", ... ) gaining fame in Iran. In the same period, he taught as professor at the art academies of Tehran.




In the later years, Nosrat Karimi busied himself with sculpture. He made numerous sculpture, which have been exhibited nationally and internationally. In addition, he wrote books about theatre and cinema.

 Early life

Nosrat Karimi was born in 1925 in Tehran as son of a respected retailer. Even as a child, he had a bent for the arts. He was fascinated by the traditional comic actors and Persian clowns, whom he could admire at weddings and family ceremonies.

At home he imitated these performers and made similar doll figures, his mother helping him to make the dolls’ dresses.

At the age of six, he watched the movies of Charlie Chaplin and was captivated by the figure of the poor vagabond, who refused to be beaten by the trials of life.

Quickly Karimi learned to imitate Chaplin and found his first audience amongst relatives and friends.

Nosrat Karimi with Luchino Visconti, the famous Italian film director, 1963
Nosrat Karimi with Luchino Visconti, the famous Italian film director, 1963

At the age of nine, he began to make himself up for his roles and thus gained his first experiences with the art of make-up.

His oldest brother, the later master of miniature, Ali Karimi, recognized Nosrat’s liking for acting and encouraged him in this direction. In his brother’s company, Nosrat made his first visit to the theatre.

At the age of ten, he made a bust of the famous Persian poet Ferdowsi, for which he was awarded a respected prize.


 Artistic career

After finishing primary school, Nosrat Karimi attended the German Polytechnic Institute. He then registered at the only drama school existing at that time in Tehran. There from 1938 to 1941 he studied dramatic art, the art of make-up and stage design.

His first teachers were eminent theatre actors and directors, such as Ali Nasr, Aliasghar Garmsiriand Abdolhossein Noushin. The latter is still regarded as the founder of modern Iranian theatre.

Nosrat Karimi  - The artist at the beginning of his carrier, 1944
Nosrat Karimi  - The artist at the beginning of his carrier, 1944

 

 

From 1940 onwards, Karimi worked as actor, make-up artist, and as stage designer, in various Tehran theatres. In 1944, he joined the Group Noushin, remaining a member until 1952. Amongst others, he performed in "The Chocolate Vendor", "Eugenie Grandet", "The Red Cape" and "The Bride of the Nuclear Age". He also directed the latter. In all these plays he was also responsible for the makeup of the entire troupe.

   
At the beginning of 1953, Nosrat Karimi travelled to Europe in order to complete his art degrees. In Rome, where he spent the first months of his stay, he became acquainted with famous Italian film directors Luchino Visconti and Vittorio De Sica. The neo-realistic films of De Sica ("The Bicycle Thief", "Miracle in Milan "... ) made quite an impression on him.

After Prague, he returned to Rome and stayed there for three years. He worked as assistant director for De Sica, performed on the stage, appeared in musicals and dubbed a number of Italian movies for distribution in Iran.


Nosrat Karimi with Vittorio De Sica, the famous Italian film director of neorealism, 1963
Nosrat Karimi with Vittorio De Sica, the famous Italian film director of neorealism, 1963

Professional life

After eleven years in Europe, Nosrat Karimi returned to Tehran in 1964. After a few filming experiments with the commercial cinema, he was engaged in 1965 by The Ministry of Art and Culture to run and extend the state workshop for animated cartoons.

A little later, Karimi began his activity as professor at The Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran university, as well as at The Academy of the Dramatic Arts, where he taught different art styles for more than twenty years.

During his three years as director of the animation studio, he made a number of short films that won local and international prizes, among them:

"Mouse Heart, Leopard Skin", a puppet show which is based on an old Persian fairy tale
"King Jamshid", a fairy tale from Ferdowsi’s Schah-Nameh (Book of the Kings), the national epic of Iran
"The Life", actually the first Persian cartoon

In the same period, Karimi produced two TV series: "Mr. Plaintiff", a puppet show and "The Marriage", a twenty-part family series about married life. Through these popular series, Karimi became known to a wide section of society of Iran.

Nosrat Karimi with Yul Bryner during the filming of "Poppy is also a Flower" 1969 Nosrat Karimi with Vittorio De Sica, the famous Italian film director of neorealism, 1963

In 1969, Karimi began shooting the movie "The Thief and the Policeman" - a Persian adaptation of the story of cops and robbers. However, after having finished the film for the most part, he gave up the direction due to interference from the producer.

In the same year, the British directorTerence Young shot some scenes of the film "Poppy is also a Flower" in Iran. He engaged Karimi as make-up artist for for his lead Yul Bryner and other actors.

From 1971 to 1973, Nosrat Karimi made three feature films: "The Carriage Driver", "The Solution" and "A Bed for Three" where he not only acted as director, but also wrote the film scripts and played the title roles.

In these movies, Karimi tells with wit and irony three stories, which together form a trilogy inspired by Italian neo-realism. The focal point is the life of average citizens with all their problems, big and small. Strait-jacketed in the fetters of tradition and intolerance, the protagonists get into apparently hopeless situations. However, listening to reason, in the end they find a solution.


 
 

"The Carriage Driver" was a great success and went down well with the critics. This movie was chosen as the Iranian contribution for international film festivals.

However, the film authorities banned it from being shown abroad. Only years later, could the film be performed in European cinemas.



The internationally acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, honoured with The Golden Palm of Cannes 1997 and numerous other international motion picture awards, praised the film as an important work of the Iranian Cinema.

"The Solution" was an exceptional success, showing for many weeks at several movie theatres simultaneously. This was the film that made Karimi a celebrity overnight.

In contrast, "A Bed for Three" enjoyed only moderate success, although it followed on from the subject matter of the first two films.

Karimi’s fame and great success resulted in attractive offers from many producers. Thus in the 1970s he played in a number of commercial films that were directed by others. He also played a supporting role in a Japanese-Iranian co-production.

In 1975, the director and actor made his fourth and last movie "The Miserable One". Again, he wrote the screenplay. The film, a satire about the mounting tensions in the 1970s in Tehran, went down well and received notable reviews.

In 1976, Karimi played one of the main characters of the TV series "My Uncle Napoleon". This is regarded as the most successful series ever run on Iranian television.

A year later, the artist produced the TV series "Khosro Mirsa II". This 16-part series, a grotesque comedy about an aristocratic family descended from theQajar dynasty, was to be (unintentionally) his last work for a long period.

He then wrote another film script and was preparing his next movie, but for the time being film production was stopped during the revolutionary years 1978/79.

 Later works

After the formation of The Islamic Republic, Nosrat Karimi was barred, for a long period, from working as a filmmaker or actor. In this time, he rediscovered his former interest for making sculptures.

He made many mimic-sculptures which were shown in numerous national and international exhibitions. In addition, Karimi wrote a number of screenplays for movie and TV productions; a few of them were commercialized under the name of others and others have not been realized until this day.


 
Not until 1987, was Karimi allowed to perform a puppet piece again – "The Uninvited Visitor". Then, he made the animated cartoon "Playmate". In 1996/97, he produced for a private channel the puppet show "Unruly", a TV series that has been re-run repeatedly at the request of the spectators.

His other works in the post-revolutionary era include the production and direction of a series of short TV films about pollution control and health care, as well as books about theatre and cinema. 
Still enjoying the life of an artist, Nosrat Karimi lives - now eighty years old - together with his wife Parvin Teimuri, a painter, in the north of Tehran.

 

(*) Abbas Kiarostami: "Having seen 'The Carriage Driver' again after thirty-four years, I am now deeply convinced that neither festival awards, nor the assessment of the art critics can be considered as evaluation criterion for a work of art, neither can the box-office.

The importance and the value of a true work of art is only determined over the years. In my view, 'The Carriage Driver' is today more impressive than during the first performance in 1971".
 Ref.: The Carriage Driver, a Screenplay by Nosrat Karimi, compiled and edited by Mostafa Zemani-Nia, Tehran 2004, page 298.

Selected filmography of Karimi, Nosratallah

1975   The Miserable One - Khane Kharab (1975)
1972   A Bed for Three - The Triple Bed - Takhtekhab senafare (1972)
1971   The Solution - Mohallel (1971)
1971   The Carriage Driver - Doroshkechi (1971)


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