Over the years Iran has produced some truly great films and filmmakers. Majid Majidi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Dariush Mehrjui have all been the pioneers of the Iranian New Wave which started in the early 90’s, however, for me the one person who stands above them all is Abbas Kiarostami. In a career that has already spanned over four decades he’s made some of the greatest contributions to world cinema with his films. Films that most people have never seen or heard about. I happened to see two of Kiarostami’s films this week, Close-Up, for the first time and Taste of Cherry, for the second and I here’s what I thought about them.
Close-Up is a film that’s unique in every way, there is simply nothing like this out there. This genre-bending docu-drama follows the true life story of Hossain Sabzian, a man who impersonated revered Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf to ingratiate himself into the lives of a well-to-do family in Tehran. The actual people involved in the incident re-enact the actual events, followed by the footage from the actual trial that took place. The combination of truth and fiction makes for an oddly compelling and profoundly moving experience. It’s unlike any docu-drama I’ve ever seen before, and it’s just one of those films you really can’t stop thinking about. It also serves as a showcase for Kiarostami’s brilliance as a filmmaker, the way he constructs this film, the execution, it simply leaves you in awe once you reflect over what you’ve seen.
Taste of Cherry (1997)
Perhaps the most divisive film of Kiarostami’s career but also his most prominent one since it got both him and Iran their first Palme d’Or at Cannes. Personally though I think the film is a master-piece. The premise is a particularly simple one, Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), a well-to-do middle-aged man drives his truck around Tehran searching for someone who will bury him after he kills himself. While the premise may seem like the makings of a depressing and straight-up downbeat film, Taste of Cherry is anything but that. Sure, the film can be depressing but it’s powerful and everything that happens really resonates with you. It is ninety-five minutes of powerful, resonant cinema. Homayoun Ershadi’s bravura, tour-de-force performance and Kiarostami’s concise yet incisive style of filmmaking drive the film and I think it also does an excellent job of exploring themes such as life and death with great subtlety. Tragic and poignant yet immensely powerful.