5 must-see films by the late Abbas Kiarostami
Following the death of Iranian film-maker Abbas Kiarostami, we celebrate his long career by highlighting the best work from his considerable oeuvre
This bold statement – by one of the most acclaimed directors in the world, no less – should be enough to make anyone pay attention to Kiarostami, who died yesterday aged 76.
He stayed in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, making almost all of his films there despite many of them being banned by the government. This censorship didn’t ease when Kiarostami’s later films started to focus on the lives of women (a particularly contentious subject in Iran). He couldn’t even attend the premiere of his film Ten after the attacks on the World Trade Centre meant visa requirements were changed.
With Kiarostami’s death in Paris – where he was receiving cancer treatment – world cinema has lost a preeminent talent. We are lucky enough to have been left a substantial body of work, however. Here is our pick of the highlights.
Voted one of 'The 50 Greatest Films of All Time' by critics in a 2012 Sight & Sound poll, Close-Up is a fine example of Kariostami's penchant for blurring fact and fiction - or at least using one in the service of the other. Based on the true story of a man who conned people by impersonating a famous film-maker, it featured many of the real people involved 'acting' themselves.
THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (1994)
Another very 'meta' film, the final part of Kariostami's 'Koka Trilogy' sees an orphaned girl struggle to accept the difference between real life and fiction. It's probably worth coming back to this one after being familiar with some of Kariostami's other films, which will help you appreciate it as one of his finest.
TASTE OF CHERRY (1997)
Taste of Cherry is perhaps Kariostami's most famous film due to its success at Cannes. Its premise - a middle-aged man drives around trying to find someone to bury him after he kills himself - is almost comically gloomy, and there's the usual fourth-wall breaking, but this minimalist masterpiece is ultimately a rewarding watch.
THE WIND WILL CARRY US (1999)
The Wind Will Carry Us is a comedy, of sorts, and makes for slightly lighter viewing than Taste of Cherry. The plot still revolves around imminent death, though: three journalists staying in a Kurdish village to document mourning rituals must kill time while waiting for the death of the old woman in question.
Car interiors have symbolic significance for Kariostami - in conservative Iranian society, they provide women with a place of privacy and a position of agency. In Ten, an unnamed female driver drives around Tehran and has conversations with 10 different passengers. The premise is simple, and the scenes - 10 of them, natch, and partly improvised - are quietly compelling.