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5 Must-See Films Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Histoire(s) du cinéma: Abbas Kiarostami

Khaneh-je doost kojast? (Where is the Friend's Home?)

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Ta'm e guilass (Taste of Cherry, 1997)

Bad ma ra khahad bord (The Wind Will Carry Us, 1999)

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The Iranian filmmaker, who sadly passed away last month, was a good friend of Locarno: his film Khaneh-je doost kojast? (Where is the Friend's Home?) won the Pardo di bronzo in 1989, and in 2005 he received the Pardo d’onore. In addition, his 1990 feature Nema-ye Nazdik (Close-Up) screened at three different editions of the Festival between 1990 and 2008 (the last of these thanks to Nanni Moretti, so enamored with that film he made it the subject of a short). To remember one of the most unique and meaningful names in contemporary world cinema, we look back on five essential titles.

 

Nema-ye Nazdik (Close-Up, 1990)

Based on real events, this blend of fiction and documentary helped increase Abbas Kiarostami’s international reputation, while Iranian critics were largely unimpressed. In telling the story of Hossain Sabzian, who impersonated filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and tricked a family into thinking they would star in his new film, Kiarostami explores the boundaries between reality and fiction, both on screen and behind the camera. The result is a gripping exploration of the concept of identity, and a riveting portrait of Iranian culture and society.

 

Ta'm e guilass (Taste of Cherry, 1997)

Winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes (tied with Shohei Imamura’s Unagi – The Eel), this meditation on life and death, shot primarily in long takes and with long periods of silence, is a moving exploration of human relationships that stems from the most unlikely place, i.e. a man’s desire to commit suicide. It also continues Kiarostami’s reflection on the relationship between real and fictional, with a brief behind-the-scenes snippet strategically placed between the hauntingly beautiful final shot and the start of the closing credits.

 

Bad ma ra khahad bord (The Wind Will Carry Us1999)

Life and death, urban and rural, traditional and modern, all collide in Kiarostami’s tribute to Forough Farrokhzad, which won the Silver Lion and the FIPRESCI Prize in Venice. Two worlds collide in a poetic landscape that presents opposing viewpoints without giving in to the temptation of providing easy answers.

 

Dah (Ten, 2002)

Jafar Panahi explored similar stylistic territories in last year’s Berlinale winner Taxi, but Kiarostami’s dissection of social issues in Iran via a female driver’s interactions with her passengers remains the purer, rawer emotional experience. A brave, illuminating journey, whose impact on the director’s career was felt as early as two years later, when Kiarostami himself decided to look back on the film to reflect on his own artistic techniques in the documentary 10 on Ten.

 

Shirin (2008)

For his final Iranian feature (his last two films were shot in Italy and Japan), Kiarostami delivers an extreme cinematic experience, staging a film viewing where the on-screen action is never shown, and the entire story is conveyed, in close-up, through the reactions of the all-female audience (including a fleeting appearance by Juliette Binoche). After an initial feeling of disconnect, this directorial strategy pays off, producing an unusual emotional link between the viewer and the characters. A fitting, albeit unintentional artistic goodbye to Kiarostami’s home country. 

 

Max Borg

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