Taste of Kiarostami at TIFF

The Ira­nian mas­ter’s films aren’t widely avail­able, so don’t miss this ret­ro­spec­tive

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By NOR­MAN WILNER normw@ now­toronto. com | @ normwilner

THE WIND WILL CARRY US: THE FILMS OF AB­BAS ñ KIAROSTAMI from Thurs­day ( Fe­bru­ary 25) through April 3 at TIFF Bell Light­box. tiff. net/ kiarostami. Rat­ing: NNNNN The Wind Will Carry Us: The Films Of Ab­bas Kiarostami ar­rives at the Light box this week with a slight sense of fa­mil­iar­ity.

The leg­endary di­rec­tor’s work was part of TIFF Cine­math­eque’s Ira­nian se­ries last spring, and the film­maker ap­peared at the Light­box in Novem­ber when the Aga Khan Mu­seum opened his art in­stal­la­tion, Doors Wit hout Keys. The mu­seum be­gan its own Kiarostami screen­ing se­ries in Jan­uary.

As fa­mil­iar as cineastes might be with his mas­ter­works, to the larger world he’s a niche artist. A few of his movies have been re­leased in the Cri­te­rion Col­lec­tion, but the bulk of his out­put cir­cu­lates in shabby DVDs and flak­ing VHS tapes, to be tracked down and traded only by the most de ter­mined fans.

This state of affairs isn’t hard to un­der­stand. Kiarostami isn’t a sexy film­maker; his movies tend to be sim­ply made and fe­ro­ciously in­tel­li­gent, which makes them dif­fi­cult to mar­ket. Even Cer­ti­fied Copy ( April 2, 4: 15 pm), his mag­nif­i­cent 2010 walk- and- talk drama with Juli­ette Binoche and Wil­liam Shimell, is a con­cep­tual Ru­bik’s cube that de­fies easy de­scrip­tion.

Kiarostami’s movies can be con­fronta­tional and dif­fi­cult, but not in the same way as those made by his Euro­pean con­tem­po­raries. Where Mi chael Haneke wants you to be sorry you showed up and Lars von Trier just wants to wag­gle his dick at you – or any­body’s, re­ally – Kiarostami wants to chal­lenge you and may be ex­pand your capa city for com­pas­sion.

His 1997 Palme d’Or win­ner Taste Of Cherry ( March 11, 6: 30 pm) fol­lows a man who wants to end his own life but can’t do so un­til he finds some­one to bury him after­ward, which in fun­da­men­tal­ist Iran is even more dif­fi­cult than it sounds. Not only are we en­cour­aged to em­pathize with the hero, but we’re also led to root for him to suc­ceed in his ter­ri­ble quest.

That’s what Kiarostami does. He es tab­lishes an ab­surd premise and leads us to un­der­stand the char­ac­ters trapped in­side it. His first in­ter­na­tional hit, Where Is The Friend’s Home? – screen­ing Thurs­day ( Fe­bru­ary 25) at 6: 30 pm in a new 35mm print – is a Kafkaesque night­mare about a school­boy try­ing to re­turn a note­book to a class­mate whose ad­dress he doesn’t know.

Some­times the ab­sur­dity is con­cep­tual. In 1990’ s Close- Up ( Tues­day, March 1, 6: 30 pm) and 1992’ s And Life Goes On ( Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 26, 6: 15 pm), he rein­ter­prets ac­tual events through a fil­ter of self- aware ar­ti­fice: an in­ci­dent in which a con man im­per­son­ated Kiarostami’s

Ñ= col­league Mohsen Makhmal­baf to take ad­van­tage of a Tehran fam­ily, or the trip Kiarostami took to north­ern Iran af­ter a cat­a­strophic earth­quake to see whether the two boys who starred in Where Is The Friend’s Home? were among the 50,000 killed. And some­times it takes the form of a struc­tural chal­lenge, as in Ten ( March 18, 6: 30 pm), a se­ries of con ver sa­tions shot in un­in­ter­rupted takes with a dig­i­tal cam­era mounted on the dash­board of a woman’s SUV, or Shirin ( March 25, 6: 30 pm),

which watches an au­di­ence of 113 women who watch a love story that we ex­per ience only through its sound­track and their re­ac­tions.

And then there’s Cer­ti­fied Copy, in which Binoche and Shimell walk around Tus­cany flirt­ing and chat­ting like an old mar­ried cou­ple – which they might ac­tu­ally be, ex­cept that we just saw them meet for the first time. ( Or is this just a thing they do?)

It’s Kiarostami’s most dar­ing pic­ture, let­ting the ac­tors ar­gue about art, au­then­tic­ity and his­tory while the film­maker treats the sub­text of Close- Up and And Life Goes On as text two decades later. He’s en­gag­ing with his own his­tory even as his char­ac­ters ob­scure theirs, and sud­den ly this sim­ple lit­tle movie con­tains en­tire uni­verses.

And, of course, all of his movies are like that.

Juli­ette Binoche and Wil­liam Shimell walk and talk in bril­liant Cer­ti­fied Copy.

Close- Up rein­ter­prets ac­tual events through self- aware ar­ti­fice.

Where Is The Friend’s Home? put Kiarostami on the cinema map.

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