I swear this was going to be my title before I saw your's, Nat. Further proof of our shared brain.
Yeah, this one was tough. Took two days, two naps, and one trip to the Dollar General for a can opener to get through. I agree with everything you said, re: this movie is important, NOT good. There were a few interesting images, mostly having to do with perspective, but I found myself working way too hard to make anything about perspective relevant to the "story" the movie tells. I think you could probably spin a pretty relevant yarn about perspective in Iran in the late '60s, but it didn't seem to me that that's what the film was about. And as we discussed, if the Ayatollah likes the movie, that might not necessarily be a good thing.
I could see the movie trying to be about community or identity. And I could see that the one character beating Hassan and calling him an animal was a turning point, but there was no emotional pay-off. I never understood a) why this cow was so important to Hassan (sustenance? emotional connection?); b) the function of the ominous bandits who periodically terrorize the community; c) why the town so quickly abandoned the lie that the cow was stolen/had run away. I think I would have liked a movie that tried to sustain that ridiculous and elaborate fiction better than watching H's descent into madness.
And you're absolutely right about the cow's pregnancy. They make such a big deal of it being the only cow in town, so how did that happen? Was it a Virgin Mary cow?