Kiarostami. Kiarostami is an accomplished auteur and worthy acolyte of the cinematic realists. If you roughly break down the auteurs by those that are grounded in realism, and those grounded in exresspionism—again—he’s an important figure in the former category. His dedication to what is authentic has been cause for genre/categorization discussions/debates over the years as much of his docudramas—are—really—documentaries (or a composite of the two). This makes it tough for me as I do not watch and study documentaries (I studied them in college and found far too often they were subject/agenda-driven in their goal and ambitions instead of stylistically driven). That’s ok though- I don’t really do experimental cinema, music videos, most television either. Anyways- back to Kiarostami—for the purposes of this list the strengths of Kiarostami is the sheer ingenuity of his films—the unmistakable imprint he puts on his work—those painterly Iranian landscapes—in particular. He also has 1 top 500 film (Taste of Cherry) and another (Where is the Friend’s House? That lands safely in the top 100 of the 1980’s).
Best film: Taste of Cherry. It is the peak of Kiarostami’s long-shot rural scenery work.
total archiveable films: 7
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Taste of Cherry)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Where Is the Friend’s House?, Taste of Cherry)
most overrated: Ten is at #945 on the TSPDT consensus top 1000 list and I can’t get behind that. You may ask about Close-Up, as that is Kiarostami’s top rated film (#86 overall right now on TSPDT) and I’ve seen it twice—I think I’d just, ultimately, have to categorize it as a documentary— it’s murky—but that’s my decision. Anyways, back to Ten– I have it in the archives but it is a series of this shot below. It is 10 conversations of women driving taxis in cars. Now, it’s in the archives because the set-up leads to fascinating discussions, a formal challenge, and that’s a trademark shot of his (his interior of the car shot is trademark)—but it is hardly cinematic and, frankly, it’s pretty ugly to look at. I wouldn’t have it in my top 1000 for sure. The concept and politics are ambitious and strong— but the filmmaking really isn’t.
most underrated: There’s nothing here. I would probably only have 2 films in my top 1000 for Kiarostami and the TSPDT has 7. They have him rated as the #40 director of all-time and I’m at #137.
gem I want to spotlight: Where is the Friend’s House? It is Kiarostami announcing himself as a neorealist auteur (carrying the torch into the 21st century from the Italians like the Dardenne’s, Mike Leigh—Andrea Arnold a bit) and his distant rural compositions.
stylistic innovations/traits: Kiarostami’s aesthetics and dogma may resemble the original Italian neorealists (a dedication to authentic storytelling, gorilla-style filmmaking, non-professional actors) but he’s a true cinema original—unequivocally. He’s an important reference point when comparing modes and styles of filmmakers over the last 40 years and a antithetical figure (to Hollywood) that cinema (at least as an arftorm) has needed. He uses long takes, long shots of beautiful Iranian terrains. He’s been an important figure (and this is harder to wrap your head around) on the subject of realism—often blurring acting with reality, docudrama and documentary, copy with the original, truth vs. fiction.
- Taste of Cherry
- Where is the Friend’s House?
- The Wind Will Carry Us
- Certified Copy
- Through the Olive Trees
- Life, and Nothing More…
By year and grades
|1987- Where is the Friend’s House?||HR|
|1992- Life, and Nothing More…|
|1994- Through the Olive Trees||R|
|1997- Taste of Cherry||MS|
|1999- The Wind Will Carry Us|
|2010- Certified Copy||R/HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Kiarastomi is a genious. My background is Persian so I might be a bit biased but i think he is one of the greatest directors of all time. Close-up is his masterpiece.
Why dont you rate documentary films and short films? You should
@Azman – thanks for the comment here. I struggled with Close-Up. You aren’t alone in thinking its a masterpiece— many cinephiles and film critics do. Help me out here. Why do you think it is? I’m genuinely curious.
Yep, I just decided a long time ago after taking a documentary class that it wasn’t for me. It isn’t just documentaries and shorts…I don’t do most television (unless an auteur directs it) or music videos either. I have different reasons for all of them but I haven’t felt the need to change my mind.
I think close up is masterpiece because it shows a mans love for cinema and I can relate(you could probably too). The ‘acting’is great and the ending is pretty emotional. Before this film i thought the main character was a fraud(the news made it sound like he was someone terrible) Through this film i came to realise the intentions and motives of the man. I began to understand him. It’s a great courtroom drama with a terrific (thats an understatement) ending. Really emotional. Phenomenal movie. You should give certain documentary films or short films a chance. Or at the very least give docu-dramas like the Battle of Algiers a watch. Documentary filmmaking can be beautiful just like ‘normal’ films can be.
@Azman– again– really appreciate all the comments here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here on Kiarostami’s Close Up. You aren’t alone. TSPDT has it as the #82 film of all-time which is certainly a masterpiece by those standards. Let’s look here- you mention acting, the ending being pretty emotional… those just aren’t criteria I think you should evaluate a movie by to make it a masterpiece… I believe a film needs more than that to be a masterpiece
… as for documentary and short films— I’ve given them a chance. Took classes in college and again I can appreciate certain aspects of them– same with music videos and other forms in the same realm. I’m happy with what i’m watching/studying.
Docudramas I definitely still count as narrative fiction films and they are in the archives.
Close up is definitely more than just emotional. I thought the documentary style cinematography was nice too. There are a bunch of reasons why I love close up. The cinematography, acting, direction are all good and its emotional too. This is my opinion. Not everyone can like the same movie. I totally respect your decision to call close up overrated. That’s your opinion.
I would like to say I love what you’ve done here, and what you continue to do! Your critical passion for cinema is smart, sensitive, and very valuable.
I will say, though, that you may want to reassess your take on Kiarostami one day. Of what I’ve seen, I believe he has six masterpieces to his name, and maybe more in that I have to resee Taste of Cherry and Close Up, both of which I haven’t included in that six!
Just to give you a quick perspective on my view of cinema, my choice (right now) for the six greatest directors would be Bresson, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kiarostami, Dreyer, and Tarkovsky. That’s how I see this artform.
Kiarostami’s strengths are in his often complex compositions, shifting perspectives, offscreen sound, philosophical challenges, subtle and dramatic camera movements, the mysteries he allows to remain as such, and more I’m forgetting or am not adept enough to describe.
I think categorizing him (neorealist, documentarian, etc) may be the mistake. He is an artist of the highest order, and, more importantly, a stylist, though his touch isn’t in grand strokes like Ophuls or Kubrick. It’s subtle, complicated, and deceptively stylistic.
Anyway, I believe Kiarostami will one day be better recognized as one of the greatest.
Thanks for what you do!
@Matthew French .Thanks for the kind words on the site.
@Azman — fair– I mean I hear you that it can be more than just emotional. I’m just trying to pinpoint on why we disagree. It isn’t just because we’re different people with different opinions. The work of art and its artistic qualities exist outside of our opinion so we either have different criteria (which we do) and or we disagree on the quality of the cinematography (which we also do). I’d take the cinematography in at least 10-20 films from 1990 alone over Close Up and believe I can prove that.
Again, I respect your opinion but really film is subjective. You must have heard the saying “beauty is subjective”. What you think of as good cinematography may not appeal to others. You may find someone extremely attractive but they could look plain to me. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”- Shakespeare. But I agree to a certain extent with you. Art is subjective but we can all agree that certain art is more valuable than other art.
@Azman— I’ve heard the saying. But how do you, me and Ebert have Tree of Life as the best film of the decade with the 10,000+ movies released if not more during the decade to choose from if film is subjective? … if we differ slightly on criteria that may change how we evaluate a film like Close Up or something and that’s fine…. but i think we’re much closer to an objective criteria for great cinema art than “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “its subjective”. I think that’s for the uninitiated.
Fair enough. You made a really good point. Art is mostly objective. But I dont agree with EVERYTHING ebert says. He hates a clockwork orange I love it.
I understand what you are trying to say though and I kinda agree with you. I’m just curious why you regard the searchers as the GOAT. I LOVE the film but I want to know why you regard it so highly.
I do however believe there is a really small amount of subjectivity involved in critiquing films
@Azman … oh yeah- there’s always going to be some disagreement– (I love Clockwork Orange too— more than that I think it is absolutely worthy of study and an important work of art regardless of Ebert’s swing and a miss on it).
I could never prove that The Searchers is better than Citizen Kane or Tree of Life or something like that. And that’s not the point of the website and why I make lists. Lists are fun, they give us something to discuss and a place to start for those interested in cinema or catch up on a director or actor that they want to watch or rewatch…. I do think that those versed with the experience, study and knowledge of cinema style and history could successfully prove that The Searchers is better than 99.% percent of the other films out there depending on the film just like some paintings are at the Louvre Museum and some aren’t. Here’s my thoughts on The Searchers from my latest viewing in 2018.
WOOOW… that’s an incredible analysis of ‘the searchers’ by you. This website is absolutely incredible. Keep up the good work! 🙂
@Azman— really appreciate the kind words here about the analysis and the website. Thank you so much
137 # is an interesting position for one of my favorite directors. Okay Kiarostami is not among the top ten, although I think he deserved it, not even in his 30s, but don’t you think he should be in his 50s? At least 100? You put him behind great directors that I love: Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, the Dardenne brothers, David Cronemberg and Lars Von Trier (I really love Lars), but you don’t think Kiarostami is much better, considering his importance in the world cinema. In the Ozu post, you say that the photography of your films is almost as good as the humanistic factor in your films, I say the same about Abbas, the photography of Where ia My Friend’s home? it’s phenomenal and spectacular. I congratulate you for being able to classify Kiarostami films from best to worst, I really can’t do that, I love almost everyone equally.
Agreed on this. Kiarostami should be higher in my opinion and TSPDT agrees with me.
However I wont argue with drake to boost Kiarostami’s ranking since Drake has his reasons to place kiarostami where he is. Also, Drake does evaluate documentaries and Kiarostami often blurred the line between doc and movie so the evaluation of the film may be slightly different.
Because close up is a documentary, Drake hasnt properly studied or rewatched Close up which is considered by many to be Kiarostamis opus.
Hey azman I think I remember reading how you love Iranian films. May I recommend the president (2014) directed by Makhammalbaf. It was a masterpiece and the best film I saw of the 2010’s. It is free on Amazon prime. Have you seen it?
@Lucas Henriques- thanks for the comment. This is a continual work in progress- so I’m always open to the idea that I’m underrating someone like Kiarostami and when I study his work again I’ll move him up. However, I do have to say I part company pretty quickly with those that think Close-Up is one of the greatest films of the 1990’s.
Okay, everyone has their opinion and their tastes. But, I don’t consider Close-Up a documentary, it would be like considering This is Spinal Tap and Man Bites Dog (2 incredible films that imitate the style of documentary) as documentaries, something that they are not. For me, a documentary must have a commitment, necessarily, to the truth, and as Close-Up mixes reality with fiction, I don’t consider it a documentary (I love the film, I’m not trying to diminish it).
@Lucas Henriques- I think there’s a debate as to whether Close-Up is a documentary. Clearly This is Spinal Tap isn’t a documentary.
What are your thoughts about including Close-Up (which I have not yet seen but do plan to see at some point) in the archives? You do not have Bunuel’s fantastic Un Chien Andalou in the archives either.
@Zane- Yeah, for different reasons I don’t really count either. Un Chien Andalou is a short (which I rarely count, and even those I do— I mean this is half as long at 16 minutes) and certainly pushes the blurry line of experimental cinema. I know I’ve written about my Close-Up somewhere but can’t remember where. I don’t count Close Up as fiction. I’ll grant that it walks the line of documentary and fiction very finely but I’ve seen it multiple times- and feel comfortable not including it.
Where is the Friend’s House?:
Starts right away, no buildup whatsoever; sounds of children talking incomprehensibly over eachother and of a light blue door that won’t quite close
I wonder if this opening with the teacher abusing the student was influenced by Truffaut; I mean it has to have been, right? This is exactly like the opening of The 400 Blows, and I don’t even mean it’s slightly similar, it’s nearly the same setup entirely
A really strong composition with Ahmad and his mother shot in an opposing few pillars holding up the outside of their house followed up by yet another stunner of Ahmad looking up at a tall window inside of his house
Nonspecific dialogue; unmeaningful stuff like washing clothes, working on homework or wearing shoes upstairs
There can be no doubt that Kiarostami is a realist; he sits and watches his characters instead of forcing things upon them with the camera such as the likes of a Kalatozov or a Scorsese – I should mention I do not mean that as a criticism (of either style) but as a mere description of his directorial style
Another one with the pillars holding up the balcony
Ooh; nice handheld shot of a POV of Ahmad’s mother peeking over some clothes she’s hanging up between Ahmad and her other son, the camera darting between the two
Great shot of Ahmad going up the jagged path on the hill; screenshotted on the Kiarostami Cinema Archives page
Really nice montage sequence of Ahmad running through the Iran countryside; I really like the but with the jagged trees especially; and the Middle Eastern soundtrack is perfect for the mood
Funny strange sequence with a walking bush that Ahmad converses with that later turns and is shown to actually be a guy with a bunch of branches on his back
The titular friend’s name is Mohammed Reza; obviously named after the deposed Shah, I assume the character was born just a year or two prior to his overthrow in 1979
A really nice shot from his POV staring down a dark walkway someone is throwing rocks into
Wow; a real stunner showing him looking through a slightly opened doorway
Slight Dutch angle as he tries to find his friend Mohammed Reza who has lost the notebook that he has now
More handheld camerawork; good formally that it appears more than once in the film, as well as in POV format
There’s a cat meowing in the background that we never see
Ha, that’s awesome; he’s retracing his steps now as he now has go to in the opposite direction to find who he needs to find
“When I was a kid, my dad would give a penny every week and a beating every other week”
Shot-reverse shot conversation between two old men – one of whom had seen Ahmad to get some cigarettes – that slows down the film
Eventually a few other guys join them and there’s a very impressive composition of all 6 now together
Another really strong one this time from a different angle to the side as Ahmad comes back finally
It seems disaster strikes as one of the men demands to have a page from the notebook for a deal
Awesome stuff here with everybody talking over eachother; wonderful rendering
We’re back at that shot up the jagged hill path with the soundtrack as he chases after the man who took the page, believing he is the friend’s father
Really great low angle up a stony stairway at 49 minutes
We finally arrive at the house and the man calls for his son to “bring that here”. A kid walks out carrying a door and covers his face with it as he walks out
I’m conflicted over whether to give Babek Ahmed Poor a nomination for his performance as Ahmad but he comes out looking pretty good for a child actor
Herds of sheep like it’s Buñuel
A jaw-dropper with a few walls and Ahmad shot in at least 3 layers of depth that I could tell in its brief moment on screen
We cut back to it again after he converses with yet another man about finding his friend but this time from slightly further away – and no less potent
Some genuine jaw-on-the-floor ones as we revisit past locations once more… and now bathed in beautiful black night
And more disappointment (not with the film but from the perspective of the characters) as he is led by the old man to the same house of the door builder earlier that was the incorrect house
Ahmad mentions his brother serving in the Iranian Army; I did forget this film was made when Iran was still at war with Iraq
Kiarostami has incredible compositions; one great one of Ahmad on the right in a doorway with his mother while the grandfather – much closer to us – is sitting down on the right side
A billowing storm appears in this penultimate section of the film before dissolving away to the classroom again like in the opening
Again just like the opening, the friend does not have his notebook since Ahmad could not find his house; a punishing buildup as the teacher rips into some of the other students as Kiarostami holds the camera on the friend as he awaits his punishment
Highly Recommend after one viewing; certainly interested in a second
Again with the lack of buildup in Kiarostami, our first sequence is of a man being taken out of a police station I think?
Shots of men in cars; Kiarostami trademark here
These two men are talking about the Makhmalbaf impersonator and about various filmmakers – one namedropped is Peter Bogdaanovich
Kiarostami injects life brilliantly into what would be an otherwise slow scene with the driving occurring at the same time – a lot of the same happens in Certified Copy of course
Some of the best writing and acting you will see comes out of Kiarostami films undeniably; but what he himself does with pacing and editing takes them to another level
Cutaway to a flying plane one of our characters is staring at; right afterward we get a short segment of him watching an empty aerosol can he knocked over as it keeps rolling down the street without end being very loud
The shorter man (the other one has gray hair) starts running down the street and kicks the aerosol can again and sets it rolling again like before
Really great opening credit sequence in a printing press I believe; it stops on “Bogus Makhmalbaf arrested”
“People out to con others have a certain look” “He didn’t have that look?” “Not at all”
Kiarostami acts in the film but in his scenes, he is either out-of-frame or shot from the back of the head
A fantastic zoom into an Imamura kind of frame at 22 minutes of Sabzian, the impostor (whoa!!!) speaking to Kiarostami
I’ve seen documentaries before but nothing that quite looks and feels like this
Low-quality video in the segment during Sabzian’s trial; the film would be better with higher-definition video but I don’t know how much Kiarostami was restricted in this section by the Iranian government who he had to fight to be allowed to shoot the trial
At 29 minutes the word “close-up” is mentioned
The film really will have you on the edge of your chair wondering what is going to happen next
Really nice composition of two men (the gray haired man is the father of the family and the other man I do not know yet but he looks like an Iranian Stanley Kubrick) at 55 minutes; this shot appears as the header for this film on Letterboxd
The Iranian word for film (derived from the French cinéma) is clearly distinguishable when they’re speaking
To be honest, looking at actual pictures of Makhmalbaf, Sabzian looks quite a bit like him
The shorter man from the beginning of the film returns at 65 minutes
Tension is stirring up as Sabzian sees the father leave through the window; the normally very-talky film is now largely wordless at this point; the caws of a crow being the only thing you hear
Genius rolling tracking shot at 68 minutes
A touching film – you really feel Sabzian’s passion for cinema in your heart; that being said there is a distinction between art merely being sentimental and art being geniusly directed while also somewhat having the previous characteristic, and this is the latter
I see now; the shorter man is the publisher of the newspaper who broke the story
“For me, art is that inner experience cultivated by the artist and conveyed to his audience”
At 89 minutes Makhmalbaf himself goes to meet Sabzian during his release from prison
Would you look at that; Makhmalbaf takes him to the Ahankhah’s on a motorcycle; just like Mehrdad would
At one point there’s a great shot looking at them on the motorcycle in a truck’s side mirror
I could do without the random mindless mutes in the audio at this point in the film
Wow; that freeze-frame to end the film, him holding the flowers – also appears on the film’s poster; an all-timer of a freeze-frame
A Must-See film I believe but I’m leaning higher as I let it roll around in my brain; freeze-frame ending is a stroke of genius – clearly Kiarostami is inspired by Truffaut as I purported in my writings on Where is the Friend’s Home?
And Life Goes On…:
At this point I knew not to be surprised when Kiarostami films get to the action right away – an extremely inspired opening here with the toll booths for cars as Kheradmend (our director protagonist) pulls up
Nice segments – shot from the inside of a car as you’d expect from Kiarostami – as the son is pointing out various structures they pass by on the road asking his father what they are
A really great one as we’re looking out the window and the director drives through a tunnel and we go out the other side – it’s not as well known as his more general car shots but this variant is also trademarked by Kiarostami – shows up in Where is the Friend’s Home (not in a car) and Certified Copy as well
Given that our main character is a director, and he is concerned about the fates of the characters in Where is the Friend’s House? (as I assume Kiarostami would be in real life as well), I would expect Kheradmend is intended to be a Kiarostami surrogate, but I am not as knowledgeable about Kiarostami’s temperament and personality as I am about Welles, Godard, Bergman, Tarantino, you know the names… I should read more of his interviews like his famous one with Kurosawa
Beautiful shots across the pretty Iranian landscape they drive past
Day turns into night as the credits start rolling
Wonderful long take tracking the workers removing rubble as we finally arrive in the ruined regions; we travel circularly around the entire setting; reminds me a little of the opening of The Exorcist though the similarities probably mostly stop there
Driving past the jagged forest as well
Formal rigor in the shots looking out from the car’s windows
POV handheld shot as Kheradmend walks up to a crying baby in a hammock he finds in the forest
Nice stuff here; they’re driving along when the son notices a coke shop and asks his father to drive back a little, and we go the opposite direction with the camera so they can get him a drink
Damn; I wouldn’t mind to have some of that pineapple-flavored Coke it looks like they’ve got
Really wonderful shot mounted to the front of the car as it navigates traffic through a bunch of construction vehicles associated with rebuilding efforts
Huh; the kid doesn’t like his Coke since it’s too warm and starts to pour it out of the bottle but there’s a mother right next to him (offscreen) who asks him to pour it into a bottle for her baby instead
Kheradmend asks to be let into a side road that is totally cleared off as his son looks down at the main road that is backed up for miles
I haven’t seen any Wenders aside from The American Friend (though I’ve been meaning to see more for a while) though both he and Kiarostami are known for their road films – I wonder if Wenders influenced Kiarostami
A gorgeous long shot; their car is at the top of the frame as they stop in front of a large assemblage of people and the camera focuses on deep rifts in the landscape of the ground aside the road
Everybody tells him he cannot make the drive to Koker due to destruction of the road ahead of him but WE MUST GO ON
A jaw-dropper long shot at 35 minutes of the car next to a stunning composition of rubble removers arranged in every corner of the frame
A really pretty shot at 36 minutes tracking some kind of funeral procession from a long distance through the car window
Wow; the combination of the orchestral music and the shot passing by the jagged path from the original film is so powerful
Wondrous stuff as they pick up the old man from the latter scenes of Where is the Friend’s House; beautiful tracking shots following the car from the hills around it – so strong
There’s an interesting analysis to be done on Kiarostami’s mixture of fiction and reality here: the characters in the film are not real – they are made up from his earlier film – but the events that have happened, this earthquake, are real
Wow; all 3 characters currently standing at different heights in the left, middle, and center of the screen as they arrive in his town; a jaw-dropper
Very audible sounds of helicopters flying overhead, also a rooster cawing, chickens clucking, construction work going on…
Easily Kiarostami’s most visually arresting film at this point in his career in 1992
Unbelievable shot of a wall of a house with a window where another window can be seen on the other side – such beauty in the damage caused by the earthquake
A wondrous zoom through another window in a damaged house that zooms outward to the beautiful grass around it; Kheradmend walks over to the window right afterward
A focus on an illustration of a man at a table that has been split cleanly in half by the earthquake
A great low angle rolling tracking shot at 52 minutes – there’s a shot just like this one in Fassbinder’s masterpiece The Marriage of Maria Braun
“Your daughter’s lucky she died – she’ll never have to do homework” Jesus Christ, kid
He follows this up with a really interesting bit about Abraham and Isaac to explain how God could not have killed this woman’s daughter (for context a woman mentions her daughter dying in the quake to him leading to the above two notes)
Stunner wall-art quality shot really divided into 3 sections, the leftmost being a woman hanging up her clothes, at 58 minutes
Right here we meet the married couple who I assume (who else will it be) will play the leads in Kiarostami’s next film Through the Olive Trees
Another absolute jaw-on-the-floor one of Kheradmend on the balcony of a house with another woman who lives there – they stand in separate columns created by the pillars
Great front-mounted shot driving along the road like that one sequence in Truffaut’s masterpiece Shoot the Piano Player (though without Truffaut’s genius use of dissolves); really strong stuff here
Oh my God; there’s constant (and very formal) discussion of soccer and specifically of a recent game between Scotland and Brazil – Kheradmend is talking to two young girls on the street at a refugee camp when his son comes and grabs him asking to stay at the camp for a little while because they’re broadcasting a soccer game
The phrase “And life goes on” is spoken at 79 minutes – probably a bit on the nose
The young man he just spoke to informs Kheradmend that the boy from the film and his brother just walked down the street minutes before so he starts speeding down the gravel road after them – lots of shaking in the front-mounted camera
He stops when he sees two young boys ahead of them but they are not the boys from the film – he still lets them in as they ask to be driven a little down the road
Funnily enough it turns out these two kids had small roles in Where is the Friend’s House? which they then talk about
Remarkable super-long shots as we track him driving once again across the gorgeous Iranian landscape down these jagged paths
The final shot is of a man Kheradmend had driven by on the street walking down one of these paths, before Kheradmend eventually, having hired my gone the other way, drives back his way and picks him up now – the camera increasingly pulls back more and more before the film ends
Powerful tale of resilience and friendship, at no point better exemplified by when Kheradmend at first blasts past this guy asking for a lift on the road, and then gets help from him when he has car problems and picks him up again in return
The film ends of course without us meeting the boy from Where is the Friend’s House?
Must-See leaning Masterpiece – I think it’s Kiarostami’s best work to date in 1992 until I get another look at Close-Up (which is fantastic, to anybody reading, don’t let my “Must-See” dissuade you)
Through the Olive Trees:
Interesting opening here – we get a monologue from the “actor playing the director” Keshavarz as he stands behind a large group of young woman all dressed in black headscarves – he has come to pick an actress for his film… this film
The assistant director here is a young man named Jafar Panâhi
The camera is mounted to the front of a car like And Life Goes On… I love Kiarostami’s use of this shot
One of the people in the car is the teacher from Where is the Friend’s House – we only hear his voice however
A really great composition using multiple levels of height and depth at 13 minutes
More work with car windows and rear view mirrors at 14 minutes – a really nice segment with backing up the car as the two real-life brothers from Where is the Friend’s House pull up to the car and set some flowers in the back
A few levels of reality-bending here as we’re watching Life… and Nothing More get filmed by the fake film crew… and this filming here is being filmed itself
Keshavarz straight up says “kilometer” and it gets translated as “mile”
The capital of Gilan Province… it’s Rasht I think? – yes it is, look how smart and intelligent I am to know something so useless!
Damn, Mrs. Shiva, why so abusive?
Keshavarz played with some of the kids earlier and now they’re chasing after him and Rezai as they’re driving – some inside of car Kiarostami trademark shots
Nice reflections of the two of them in the windows along with the landscapes they drive past
A really harsh story told by Rezai about why the girl playing his wife in the film won’t talk to him
I wonder if Keshavarz was picked to play the director due to his resemblance to Coppola
Stunning composition of more women with black headscarves and some flags in a cemetery – gorgeous shot
I thought I recognized the first he was in – he’s talking with the actress’s grandmother about marrying her in the forest when he walks into the scene where Kheradmend finds the baby – that’s awesome
At 40 minutes we start with some of the beautiful Iranian landscape shots that characterized his previous film Life and Nothing More
An inspired segment at a hillside camp – the best sequence in the film so far, very engaging
A really great composition of 4 tents staggered in a long shot throughout the frame at marginally different elevations because of the incline of the hill – wonderful shot
A gorgeous landscape shot of Kheradmend and Keshavarz walking through the grasslands, the mountain regions of rural Iran visible all around them – beautiful, the film needs more segments like this
Both of these actors are very good here
A really nice shot tracking across a bunch of swaying trees ending at a group of people, with some children, in very colorful clothing – from the POV of Kheradmend
Rezai and Keshavarz are now conversing in the back of a truck
The side mirror shot is clearly a Kiarostami trademark – the truck pulls up to all those people I mention 2 notes above and picks them up to get in the back with Rezai and Keshavarz
Tracking the truck her as it drives through heavy tree cover
A devastating shot of Rezai looking away as Tahereh, his love, walks up to the car as they drive over for filming today
The word “close-up” is mentioned alongside a stellarly-blocked frame at 67 minutes
Brilliant Antonioni-like shot showing the divide between Rezai and Tahereh with two pillars at 68 minutes – she sits down reading her book not listening to him on one side as he is standing up trying to talk to her on the other side
During the many failed takes of the film (which are often long without cuts), we often cut to the film crew – notably the two boys from Where is the Friend’s House in the far background
Ah; good form here as the Ahmadpour boys are looking for the flower pots they donated to the filmmakers at the beginning of the film
Rezai follows Tahereh through the famous forest begging her for her love and receiving no answer the entire time – eventually she leaves the forest and walking up the famous jagged path as he keeps talking at her from the forest’s edge
He follows her after a short time to the top of the hill and can see her, now quite distant, deep in another forest. He follows her once again. Keshavarz has started to follow him as well
The final sequence (including what I described before) takes it up a half-grade from a Recommend / Highly Recommend – he follows after her even further and more as they keep walking, and walking, and walking, but the camera is still on the hill and they cannot be heard – classical music begins to play
After a while he starts to run back down the path to us (he even trips over himself at one point) – the film ends before her answer, if there even was one, is revealed
A Highly Recommended film leaning Highly Recommend / Must-See border after one viewing
Taste of Cherry:
A calmer opening shot perhaps compared to Kiarostami’s previous work – just a shot of Ershadi in his car (as you may expect from Kiarostami, like I’ve mentioned a billion times now reviewing his films) driving around; we cut to his perspective as he looks around at a bunch of men he drives past (all really well composed in the shot) as they clamor around him asking if he has work for them
Really beautiful Iranian landscape shots like you see in Kiarostami’s previous work – but there’s something different here, a different emotion, in this film that I haven’t yet uncovered
I think there may be a slight filter – as you all may know I’ve gone through Kieślowski’s work recently so I’ve seen my fair share of filters recently; but his face and the landscape just look particularly sun-kissed
Ershadi propositions a construction worker about “helping him with any money problems” and is told to clear off lest he be attacked – I assume the worker thought he was cruising for sex
Kiarostami’s son Bahman served as an assistant director here
Pretty easily the most rigidly-directed film Kiarostami has made to this point in his career
Homayoun Ershadi is probably the best actor Kiarostami would work with in his career until Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy; he has such a rhyme and rhythm to his character
A really nice one tracking them as they drive from outside at 22 minutes – I no longer think there’s a filter but the film IS extremely orange
The actor playing the soldier, Safar Moradi I think, is extremely strong here as well
Cutaway to a murder flying over the setting as Moradi escapes from Ershadi
As he’s driving along away he notices a troop of soldiers on a marching drill – I wonder if they were joined by Moradi
Ershadi was apparently not a professional actor, this was his first role – what a discovery
Really great compositions as he drives along a group of laborers with pickaxes
More scenes with the camera mounted to the front of the car
A really wonderful composition of two men that are flanked by 2 groups of 2 trees on Thoth of their sides
Wow; a jaw-dropping long shot here with more laborers as his car gets stuck briefly and he gets swarmed by all the laborers as they try to push his car back on the road
Wow; the sky reflected on his windshield, and you can see it rotating as he takes a turn – this shot is used to an even greater extent in Certified Copy
He picks up an Islamic student and at one point they drive past the soldiers on the street – still with the shot-reverse shot in the car approach to conversation that Kiarostami does so well
Certainly Kiarostami’s most beautiful film to date in 1997 and perhaps of his entire career
The billowing sand when Ershadi drives off after dropping off Noori is fantastic
At one point Kiarostami even uses shadows like he’s Murnau
A wall-art shot at I think an excavation at 57 minutes
Wonderful visual – he stares at his own shadow after a crap ton of rocks fall on top of it from the work being done like it’s getting buried – this connects formally with other moments in the film where you see trucks going around pouring rocks and dirt out of their beds onto the desert landscape around us
He just sort of sits in the dust storm for a while not doing anything
Another trademark of Kiarostami is placing the camera within view of a road, but placing the road at the absolute top of the frame to allow the primary focus to be on the landscape around it
“If we all choose this way out of every problem, there would be no people left on Earth”
Differing ethnicities of the people he speaks to: the young soldier is a Kurd, the Islamic student is an Afghan, and the old final man is a Turk, and they and Ershadi speak about the experiences their ethnicities and countries have had and the effects it has had in their lives
So many of these incredibly beautiful shots tracking the car as it treks along the road surrounded by the grasses and desert sand
More with Kiarostami writing the names of his films into his scripts – “taste of cherries,” is spoken at 73 minutes
Wow; a really strong one of the old man walking towards a gate at 77 minutes – one of if not the best single image of Kiarostami’s career
Damn Ershadi drives fast
He drives back to the gate and it’s again a very beautiful image as he runs inside
Kiarostami’s best imagery ever at 85 minutes – Ershadi looking at the hazy orange sky, before it all dissolves to black, and he’s ready to die (yes I know you appreciate my accidental poem)
A long take staring at him in his apartment through his blinds as he prepares to go out and die
Great usage of the headlights and rear lights – Orange, blue and red to be seen – as he is driving to the set location in the night
He sits down and smokes a cigarette but we can see he may have a visitor soon
He gets into the grave and watched the full moon through the dark night clouds ahead of him
We fade totally to black before fading back in to video cam footage – perhaps a news camera – overlooking the local area; we see him walking around, no longer in the grave
There is also another set of army soldiers on the March across the way
Great jazz soundtrack choice for this final sequence
It looks like the final sequence is showing Kiarostami himself directing a film crew directing the movie, as sort of yet another exploration of cinema like the Koker trilogy? What a confusing but intriguing ending
A Must-See film ringing the doorbell of the Masterpiece level after one viewing; I’m having a hard time deciding between this and And Life Goes On… for his best work to date in 1997
The Wind Will Carry Us:
Yeah… I’m not going to bother to post the relatively bland notes for this one. It’s far from a bad film, but clearly a weaker effort visually from Kiarostami than his other works. The film starts out in a car driving sequence, of course, which is trademark for our man but then most of it takes place in that rural Iranian town – not that that’s necessarily bad, per se, that’s nearly all of Where is the Friend’s House and there are long segments of walking through the streets in his other films as well, but on a general aesthetic level it’s a disappointment for Kiarostami at this point in his career, so static in its visual character throughout and even the landscape shots here are far less resonant than in his previous, superior works, leading us into his most superior work, which is…
This is a second viewing, as I’m sure can be inferred from my constant references to this film in my previous reviews. My first viewing of this wonderful film was 4 weeks prior to having seen the rest of Kiarostami’s major works in this 26-hour period (one day excluding Where is the Friend’s House in the previous night which is crazy! I don’t get too many opportunities to watch films right now so I had to pour them all in together here)
An uncharacteristically calm opening shot; just the speaker’s table at the press conference with the copy of the book – Copia Conforme – as muttering can be heard in the background and the credits roll
Réalisé par Abbas Kiarostami…
And then we cut to the crowd of people who have come to see Shimell – a really nice composition – in his first appearance he is signing a copy of his book for Binoche
He mentions how his first inspiration for the book was in Tuscany and he is now back here to talk about it
Cutaways to Binoche gesturing with her son as Shimell describes the content of his book
Binoche is forced to leave with her son and gives her number to Shimell’s associate so she can contact him later
Again here you notice their reflections in glass as I mentioned in my original review – I must assume they represent copies (perhaps not according to the film’s theses – the opinions held by Shimell’s character – but aesthetic copies for sure)
“Why didn’t you want him to sign with my surname” ah yes, because she’s divorced from her husband
Great one in a dark stairway Shimell is walking down – you can really note the budget difference here in the lighting with Kiarostami’s other films
The sequence where he traverses the statues and busts down here is excellent – Kiarostami an artist of the long take of course
Ah… so awesome – Shimell in frame looking like a giant next to Binoche in that tiny mirror – she even says “it’s a copy” here
At 20 minutes begins the magnificent driving sequence with the reflections of the village on the windshield – despite being an auteur of the vehicle this is the first time he ever did something quite like this
Incredibly engaging conversational scenes in the car as they zoom past the now-Italian landscapes; even though we’re no longer in Iran he doesn’t forget his rural love
You can even see the land passing them by in Shimell’s glasses
Camera mounted to the front of the car at 28 minutes
Binoche’s big, expressive performance will knock you on your ass on the first viewing, and hers is still clearly superior, make no mistake, but Shimell’s reservation and withholding nature will catch your eye at points in the second
I wonder if they’re actually driving or if the land is rear-projected (in certain shots inside the car)
They’re pretty different films stylistically but there’s a scene in Amarcord in the Italian countryside that looks a lot like this
Ooh; that first moving long take as they walk into a building where a marriage is being photographed and then keep going and going as the camera just follows them
At 35 minutes Binoche starts talking about how her son didn’t care about standing in the cold rain despite his mother’s objections
I haven’t seen any of the Before films (planning to get to them in December during Christmas break maybe) but I can’t imagine it doesn’t look like this… two people walking around a city in long takes perhaps?
At 37 minutes Binoche takes Shimell to see “Original Copy,” it is a perfect recreation of a Roman painting from that was believed to be the original version of the painting for centuries
Binoche is annoyed because she presents this to Shimell as an example to support his theories about copies and he brushes it off as he has already found enough evidence
“The original is only a reproduction of the beauty of the girl in the picture. She’s the real original. But I suppose if you look at it like that, the Mona Lisa is a reproduction of Lisa deal Giocondo”
At 41 minutes the brilliant coffee shop scene begins
“What did I wanted to ask you?” “What did you wanted to ask me?”
Oh God, the devastating scene where Shimell deconstructs Binoche’s inability to keep control of her son
“And she always had her arms crossed just like you”
Shimell starts on a point about Binoche’s son believing a copy was an original work of art when he gets another call and Kiarostami makes sure to shoot him in the mirror as he walks out
Code-switching; Binoche speaks French with her son, English with Shimell and Italians with the local residents
“Our husbands are never totally absent. He makes you a married woman”
I love how the shop owner just thinks Shimell is Binoche’s husband and from this point forward she just acts like he is
“She mistook you for my husband and I didn’t correct her” Oh really? Looks like we make a good couple”
At 58 minutes they begin speaking to eachother in French – also they continue to pass by young married couples such as themselves
There’s so much talking that the impact in the silent sequences, such as when they walk amongst the young married couples, have so much impact
More glass reflections
Shimell finally goes to take a picture with Binoche and his spot is taken by a young just-married woman who appears to by crying like Binoche
At 64 minute they arrive in the square with the fountain and we get a wonderful handheld tracking shot of the two walking around it – has to have inspired Call Me By Your Name from Guadagnino
She walks away from him a little and he says “You remind me of your son”
Great one with a mirror we can see Binoche in – eventually she starts to wave Shimell over
After a while he sees an older married couple arguing – the great Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter to Luis Buñuel, is the man
An absolutely fantastic scene between the 4 of them plays out as Binoche walks over to them and continues waving Shimell over
Great tracking shot going clockwise over all of their shoulders
There is another group of married couples behind them taking pictures at the fountain
Eventually Carrière takes Shimell aside and speaks to him about how to properly pursue Binoche without irritating her
A really nice singular shot using natural lighting as they walk up to a restaurant to finally get some food other than just coffee
The shot behind Shimell’s head is genius – soon all variety of married couples will be assembling behind him for festivities
Here at 75 minutes he begins speaking Italian which we previously understood him not to speak – he makes his order in Italian (could just be him reading the menu)
Right here Binoche goes into the restroom to fix her makeup and we get the famed shot of her holding up the earring that makes for the poster of the film
When Shimell starts getting angry he begins switching back to English after having predominantly spoken in French for a while
Constant talk of Shimell being absent as a father and husband
“Why don’t I just leave you with your… new friends [the married couple she met]” wow, what a powerful line
It’s such an enigmatic film – there’s so many layers with their husband-wife pretend to analyze
At 89 minutes the best singular shot visually of the front face of a church – its bells are ringing at the same time
Now that the tone has cooled down Shimell goes back to speaking French
A stellar final scene as she recounts the consummation of their marriage in this hotel room she purchased and asks Shimell to reenact it with her, but he informs her that he has to leave
He walks into the bathroom and the film’s last shot is just a closeup of him looking into the bathroom mirror (his own reflection) as he washes his hands – very good lighting with the shadows on his face by the way – and church bells ring in the distance; he just stares into the mirror as those bells ring into your soul before leaving the room as we refocus on the bells- it is ambiguous whether he stays with Binoche or leaves her in the hotel (church bells also at the end of Breaking the Waves of course)
Reminds me of Journey to Italy what with the disinterested husband and the wife trying to hold on to his attention, though it should given Rossellini’s borderline masterpiece was the blueprint for all films depicting failing relationships moving forward
So much ambiguity here with their presentation of themselves – from the beginning we see Shimell is a writer and Binoche is an antique store owner, and this is the first time they have ever met, but as the film goes on and on, they let on that they know more about eachother than we may think at first, what with her obsession with him and his book and his knowledge of her relationship with her son, leading us to wonder who are they really? Have they just met or have they been married for 15 years, he always distant to their relationship and she always disheartened by his lack of commitment (think him “dozing off” and his phone call at the coffee shop)? Everyone around them views them that way, even her own son, so does that make that what they really are? Are they just a copy of an original thing? If they are a copy, does their copy carry the same weight as whatever that original is? As I said, everybody thinks of them as the original but still they cannot make themselves believe it too… so many interpretations to be made of this work
With it’s themes of identity and the landscapes and streets they’re walking along, it would make a great combination with Antonioni’s masterpiece The Passenger (both directors influenced by Rossellini of course)
Perhaps a bit unfair that I’ve seen this one twice now and all the others only once (and feel I need to watch many of them again all the same) but it just feels so right to call this Kiarostami’s best work, and