The Paradox at the Heart of Abbas Kiarostami’s Early Films
August 6, 2019 12:25 PM   Subscribe

The making of images was at the heart of Kiarostami’s work from the start; in his 1974 feature “The Traveler,” the young protagonist raises money for a bus ticket to go see a soccer match by setting himself up as a local portraitist, and scams residents out of change by taking their pictures with no film in the camera. Yet, soon, Kiarostami would go further, rendering his own image-making central to his movies. [slNYer]
posted by Ahmad Khani (7 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for posting! That was a good read, and it's awesome that the retrospective of his films will be traveling nationwide in the U.S. eventually. Hoping people near the IFC Center in New York will take advantage of this opportunity!

I haven't watched any of Kiarostami's films yet, but the new Criterion Channel should make it a little easier. Currently they have Where Is The Friend's House, The Traveler, The Report (kind of? the CC's description notes that the original negative was destroyed), Taste of Cherry, Close-Up, Certified Copy, and 24 Frames.

I'm also hoping that Janus will add the earlier short films to the Criterion lineup after the retrospective's tour is done.
posted by rather be jorting at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf have helped me understand so much more about and empathize with the Iranian people then any news report I've ever read. Iranian cinema is loaded with such a nuanced view of humanity. Thanks for making this post.
posted by Dmenet at 3:17 PM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


I haven't watched any of Kiarostami's films yet, but the new Criterion Channel should make it a little easier. Currently they have Where Is The Friend's House, The Traveler, The Report (kind of? the CC's description notes that the original negative was destroyed), Taste of Cherry, Close-Up, Certified Copy, and 24 Frames.


Close-Up is, truly, absolutely mind-blowing and perhaps one of the most meta films ever made. I've watched it numerous times now and find it to be astonishing every time over. As I know how popular lists are here, I'd easily include it in my top-5.
In the autumn of 1989, the Iranian magazine Sorush printed a story about an unusual crime: a poor man had been arrested for impersonating a celebrated film director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, to a middle-class family in northern Tehran. Although the accused, Hossein Sabzian, had accepted some money from the Ahankhah family, the main motivation for his ruse did not appear to be financial. Rather, he and the Ahankhahs shared a love of cinema, and after an initial impulsive lie about his identity during a chance encounter, Sabzian seemed to have become fixated on the success of his continuing deception, during which he promised the family members parts in “his” next film and rehearsed them for their roles. It was only when their Makhmalbaf appeared unaware that he had won an award at an Italian film festival, an event reported in Iran’s news media, that the Ahankhahs’ suspicions crystallized and they alerted the authorities. Sorush’s reporter, Hassan Farazmand, witnessed the arrest, and at the police station conducted a lengthy interview with Sabzian that figured prominently in the published account of the strange case of the Makhmalbaf impersonator.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:31 PM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


Years ago I walked into Certified Copy knowing nothing about Kiarostami. It was a film festival and all I knew was Juliette Binoche was in it, so it had to be at least worth seeing. Totally amazing. You think you're watching one thing and then halfway through, with no real substantive change within the film itself, you suddenly have to re-evaluate everything you thought you were seeing.

(I always tell people - read nothing about the film before you see it. Go in cold, like I did. If you're not into movies where "nothing happens" but two adults talking for 90 minutes, then skip it, you'll hate it. But if talky intellectual pictures are your jam, then it's a must see.)
posted by dnash at 8:08 AM on August 7, 2019


If you dig Close-Up, definitely check out Imamura's History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess, Orson Welles' F For Fake, and especially the recent Act of Killing from Joshua Oppenheimer. The meta-doc/re-enactment genre is one that always seem rich with resonance for the viewer while it's experienced.
posted by Harry Caul at 8:08 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the reminder on Oppenheimer's film. Been working myself up to see it, as it's rather bleak.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2019


I loved F For Fake (meta-commentary on film as a medium, wryness about the nature of authenticity & the subjectivity of memory, good good stuff)! Close-Up sounds even more appealing now.

(I don't know if I'll ever work up the interest to watch The Act of Killing, as the prospect of watching mass killers re-enact their crimes makes me feel mentally nauseous, especially after watching Night and Fog recently. I do think it's important to remember that such crimes occurred, but personally am not inclined to see Oppenheimer's use of meta-doc to address it.)
posted by rather be jorting at 5:03 PM on August 7, 2019


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