Taste of Kiarostami at TIFF
The Iranian master’s films aren’t widely available, so don’t miss this retrospective
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.