(1940 - present)
Three Key Films: Close-Up (1990), Taste of Cherry (1997), Certified Copy (2010)
Underrated: Through the Olive Trees (1994)
Unforgettable: The lingering, elusive final shot of Through the Olive Trees as Hossein (Hossein Rezai) chases his leading lady and love Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian) through the titular grove to hypnotic effect. Kiarostami’s camera, from a staggering panoramic distance, leaves the audience breathless, wondering if the girl has accepted his marriage proposal or not.
Certified Copy (2010)
The Legend: The complexities of human behavior, mainly when hidden in the ambiguous gray shadows of the interplay of simplicity, reality, morality, and specific geography, are a ripely showcased throughout Kiarostami’s filmography. A versatile artist, filmmaker, poet, painter, and photographer famous in his native Iran for many decades before his Cannes Film Festival break-out Close-Up, Kiarostami’s rise to prominence as a key figure of the Iranian New Wave made him the country’s most celebrated and watched filmmaker and cemented Iran’s artistic reputation in the international cinematic discourse. Close-Up was catapulted to international celebrity by champion endorsements from a diverse, supportive group of other essential directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, making Kiarostami the de facto leader of a formidable group of filmmakers that included his close collaborators Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi.
A master of both reflexive and self-reflexive styles, Kiarostami is best known for blurring the lines between what is reality and what is simply cinema, of tradition and modernity, and for his cultural and cinematic hybridity. Transitions are of the utmost importance in the director’s work, how people get to where they are going, which is often by car. New York Times Film Critic A.O. Scott wrote that Kiarostami, “in addition to being perhaps the most internationally admired Iranian filmmaker of the past decade, is also among the world masters of automotive cinema. He understands the automobile as a place of reflection, observation and, above all, talk.” The time spent traveling by car is not lost on Kiarostami, who reveals artistic possibility in the most seemingly ordinary locations and sets many emotionally-riveting sequences inside of the coach of an automobile, from Close-Up, Through the Olive Trees and A Taste of Cherry up to his most recent effort, Certified Copy. Starring iconic French actress Juliette Binoche, who took the Best Actress prize at Cannes last year for her magnetic work in Kiarostami’s technically-immaculate film, the director proves his verisimilitude yet again, as well as his commitment to constantly pushing the envelope and challenging himself when it comes to style, form, technique, and method. Matt Mazur