Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Life and Nothing More (Abbas Kiarostami)

Some of the best recent films are Iranian, despite (or maybe because of) the country's rigidly strict censorship laws. In particular, the directors Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi are proof that severe limitations can actually be creatively freeing, and their films are some of the most formally inventive stuff of the past fifteen years. Kiarostami, especially, has created his own cinematic language. It's not the easiest style to jump into, and I admit being bored by parts of the first film of his I saw. I had the feeling, though, that the boredom was my fault, and I was intrigued enough by the film as a whole to check out some of his others. It's worth the effort, and Kiarostami's films give you as much, or more, than you put into them. Some of his trademarks include a use of non-professional actors, lots of driving and scenes shot inside moving cars, and endings that seem jarring, abrupt, or random but somehow appropriate. This may be my favorite of the four Kiarostami films I've seen so far. It's about a movie director and his young son driving from Tehran to a small town in the country after a devastating earthquake to see if some children who acted in one of his films are still alive. They find the main highway hopelessly clogged with traffic and veer off into sometimes severely quake-damaged back roads, talking to the villagers they meet along the way about their experiences during the quake. That's about it. It doesn't sound like much, but it's deceptively amazing how much it is.

1 comment:

kristykay said...

It took me a bit to warm up to Kiarostami as well, but now that I have, I just can't get enough. He has a way of looking at the things around him in the way you might look at them if you were there. And, while I'm not a huge fan of government censorship of the arts, I do think that Kiarostami and some other Iranian directors I've seen have been able to make really powerful and moving films within those contraints.

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