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Iranian Cinema

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Thanks Peter. edit: I admired The Terrorist, too, but since its characters' national origins/sources of conflict were undefined, I felt that it became more abstracted (though beautifully filmed) and less political. What did you think?

Opus, I'm glad to read that you're planning to watch both of those films--they are major works I've seen multiple times. Do let us know what you think of them.

BTW, The Wind Will Carry Us is part of the new "Hidden God" series at MoMA--here is their excerpt from a new essay by Godfrey Cheshire:

Bad ma ra khahad bord (The Wind Will Carry Us). 1999.

Iran/France. Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami. With Behzad Dourani, Noghre Asadi.

Godfrey Cheshire writes that

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if people wanted to learn about, say, American cinema and  were initially discussing Ron Howard, I'm sure plenty of us wouldn't hesitate to provide more ambitious examples.  

But if they were discussing Steven Speilberg, you'd say, "Excellent choice. He represents the very best of American cinema," right? Highly personal, and at the same time very commercial.

That would be (gasp!) correct, but it would drive some people crazy -- people who can't stand overtly commercial films, and who think Speilberg is nothing more than sentimental pap. People who can't fathom how commercial films could also represent intensely personal statements, or who, maybe, just don't find the personal statements to be all that deep, or worthwhile.

Those people, I would contend, are the crowd who admire Iranian cinema that is more interested in making political statements than in telling stories. I, for one, refuse to put one type of film above the other.

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The Wind Will Carry Us is part of the new \"Hidden God\" series at MoMA--here is their excerpt from a new essay by Godfrey Cheshire:

I'm always a little embarrassed to post full reviews in this forum, but I particularly like the review I wrote for this film. It also gets at why people like Doug and I often de-emphasize Majidi in favor of Iranian directors like Kiarostami and Panahi. It's not that I don't appreciate Majidi (I like Baran quite a bit), but that's not what people mean when they refer to the Iranian New Wave.

Anyway, here's what I wrote about The Wind Will Carry Us. I also have reviews of Close Up, Homework, ABC Africa, Ten, and other Iranian films up at the Tollbooth site. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I'm probably proudest of my Kiarostami reviews, of all the reviews I've written.

J Robert

by J. Robert Parks

A car slowly traverses a winding road. Someone in the car leans out to ask for directions. A young boy frets over his schoolwork. Two friends walk through a gorgeous river grove. An old woman lies on her deathbed, attended to by family and neighbors. People talk, people share, people wait. Through it all, a camera stands discreetly in the distance, watching.

These narrative moments are familiar tropes in the work of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. From films like Where is the Friend's House? and Through the Olive Trees to his Cannes-winning Taste of Cherry, Kiarostami has used these recurring images to reflect and amplify our shared humanity, to explore the mysteries of life and beauty, and to contemplate the nature of death. His movies, which often take place in his country's mountain villages, offer small glimpses of people's lives and yet open up the vast panorama of the human condition.

The Wind Will Carry Us, Kiarostami's latest film, is another subtle meditation on these themes. A man, consistently referred to as "the engineer," drives from Tehran to a remote village. Accompanying him are his "crew," two faceless men whom we'll only hear from but never see. Not quite sure of where they're going, they meet a young boy who gives them directions. Their mission is somewhat mysterious; "if anyone asks, say we're looking for treasure," the engineer jokes with the boy.

In the village, the three proceed to wait. Their purpose has something to do with an old woman who's dying. Whether they're there to help her or pay their last respects or something entirely different is unclear. The crew spend most of their time eating strawberries, while the engineer flirts with the local women, attempts to find fresh milk, and takes calls on his cell phone.

This last activity requires the man to leave the village for higher ground. Each time, we see his car maneuver up the dusty and sharply-curved road to the top of the hill, the site of the village's graveyard. There, he meets a local ditch digger, another character we hear but never see.

If the storyline sounds somewhat simple and oblique, that too is a trait common to Kiarostami's films. In Where is the Friend's House?, Kiarostami's first major feature, the plot centered almost exclusively on a young boy trying to deliver a homework assignment to a friend. And Life Goes On, the second in a trilogy that ended with Through the Olives Trees, dealt with someone trying to locate an acquaintance after a devastating earthquake. Taste of Cherry was the account of an old man trying to find someone willing to bury him. Unlike in those films, the protagonist of The Wind Will Carry Us finds his object in the movie's first scene, but this initial discovery only leads to more uncertainty--the "trying" shifts to a different locus.

The narrative has never been the focal point in any of Kiarostami's films, however--a fact that certainly has much to do with his lack of popular success in the U.S. Instead, the story is merely a frame for his larger concerns: how do we see? what can we see? what are we truly looking for? and what will we do when we find it?

The aspect of seeing is especially important in The Wind Will Carry Us. Kiarostami's evocative and sometimes arresting camera placements cause us to consider our own perspective. His fondness for extreme long shots, particularly of cars set against the countryside, provoke us to ponder our significance in light of the beauty of creation. And how beautiful it is in this movie! The flowing grain in the fields, the trees growing by the peaceful brook, even the dust of the mountains shimmer and testify to nature's grandeur.

The camera, though, is not just a recorder of splendor; it also acts as a mirror (literally, in one fantastic scene) reflecting humanity's common bonds. The engineer, though he has little in common with the people he's talking to (he's sophisticated and worldly, they're humble peasant folk), is able to transcend those differences. He does so primarily by quoting poems, sayings, and stories that he learned as a child. Often, the person he's speaking with will join him midway through the recitation, and they'll finish together. Now they understand each other; now their differences are stripped away.

This moment of communion occurs in other Kiarostami films as well. The end of Through the Olive Trees is a wonderful long take of a boy suddenly realizing his beloved wants him to follow her. The conclusion of Close Up finds our protagonist riding on the back of his hero's motorcycle, grabbing the latter's waist and discussing their shared love of film. And the closing shot in Taste of Cherry is an otherwise odd video of Kiarostami himself and his film crew jovially resting on a hillside, a moment that takes on great resonance when you consider this theme of communion.

But the camera isn't always a unifying force. Sometimes it emphasizes the vast distance that separates us. Other times the camera itself comes between and divides, as in one scene when the engineer attempts to surreptitiously photograph an assembly. Culture and shared stories can bring people together, but those same forces can highlight what we don't understand about each other.

The same will be true of The Wind Will Carry Us. For many Americans, its unfamiliar formal aspects, its lack of a traditional narrative structure, and even its director's nationality will be enough to discourage them from grasping the film's message and beauty. For others, however, the common stories of nature, waiting, and death will be the bridge across the cultural divide.

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Doug C wrote:

: I admired The Terrorist, too, but since its characters' national origins/sources

: of conflict were undefined, I felt that it became more abstracted (though

: beautifully filmed) and less political. What did you think?

This almost warrants a thread of its own, but I don't think I ever actually reviewed this film, as such, and my memory of it has grown dim, so I don't have much to say -- but at any rate, I almost called it a "psycho-political thriller" just now, but I shaved off the prefix because it seemed to me the film was more about the clash between the embracing of life (as reflected in the main character's pregnancy and in the sensuous looks and sounds captured by the film) and the embracing of death (as reflected in the fact that the main character is a would-be suicide bomber), rather than about any particular psychological process going on in the main character's mind. But at any rate, yeah, the film is not about specific political movements, as such (even though it was inspired by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, IIRC), so perhaps even "political thriller" isn't the best way to describe it. It IS a somewhat abstract film, but I don't mind a bit of abstraction now and then.

FWIW, just to appear remotely on-topic, I believe the last Persian film I saw was At Five in the Afternoon, which I saw at the local film festival and commented on here. But for whatever it's worth, the last one I recall really liking was Secret Ballot, which, as the title suggests, definitely has political overtones. Oh, and looking at that thread on the old message board, I discover I made this comment:

BTW, when I rented this video, the woman at the counter looked it over and said, "This isn't the best Persian film. Here's one that you might want to see," and then she wrote "BARAN" on the receipt. I said that I had already seen
Baran
, and I said that I liked it, and she replied that she was "Persian" herself and didn't want
Secret Ballot
to give me the wrong impression of "Persian films".

Interesting, in light of this discussion, no?

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Wow, that's an interesting statement on her part. I can't guess why she might've had an aversion to the film given that it addresses the underrepresented democratic movement within contemporary Iran, unless she's a conservative, which would explain her embrace of Baran but wouldn't explain why she'd be working at a video store in Canada. I've only seen part of Secret Ballot, though, but it seemed quite likeable--I'll have to hunt it down.

Incidentally there's a very good US independent film made by an Iranian-American, Ramin Serri, called Maryam (2000) that's very much worth seeing. (I think Stef saw it and liked it, too.) It's about an Iranian-American high schooler living in New Jersey in '79 during the Islamic Revolution, who must contend with the resulting cultural tensions in her family and the local racism in its wake. The drama is painted in broad strokes, making it ideal fare for thoughtful teenagers, but I think it could also be quite moving and informative for adults, too.

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Those people, I would contend, are the crowd who admire Iranian cinema that is more interested in making political statements than in telling stories. I, for one, refuse to put one type of film above the other.

Well I refuse to distinguish between the two types to begin with. But I appreciate what you're saying, Christian, however I do think a work that challenges or changes society has more "worth" in significant ways than one which simply emotionally diverts society. Not that the latter is worthless, just not as "important" in the long run. The fact is, the critical process inherently involves assigning values to films and ranking them in some fashion, by some criterion, and this is definitely one of my own.

I also think people should embrace and promote artists who are suppressed--which is one reason Panahi's JFK arrest and Kiarostami's visa problems in the US were so unfortunate.

As far as Spielberg is concerned, I personally wouldn't say he's the best at all, largely for reasons I've just stated in this post. Even his "message" pictures tend to package his subjects into easily-digestible morsels of polished, feel-good filmmaking for mass consumption. His bid at making a challenging art film, AI: Artificial Intelligence, met with great anger and scorn by a lot of people (myself included). I do enjoy many of his films, but do I think he's the most important US filmmaker to offer up for discussion? Not at all.

I'm looking forward to reading your review, JRobert...

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And now that I've read it, I can say "Great job, J. Robert!" smile.gif

You've really brought out the mystery and humanity that's locked inside Kiarostami's challenging aesthetic choices. One of the techniques I find so astonishing in this film is the fact that so many characters throughout the movie are never seen--not characters outside the immediate narrative, but specific characters within the scenes themselves who interact and talk with the protagonist. We just never see them. When you write about the importance of human connection in Kiarostami's works, I think of how wildly brilliant this formal decision was and how integral it is to the themes of the film.

"Unlike in those films, the protagonist of The Wind Will Carry Us finds his object in the movie's first scene, but this initial discovery only leads to more uncertainty--the "trying" shifts to a different locus."

Very interesting comparison. Again, there's almost the sense that the film represents the archetypical Search for people and meaning that are in some ways right under the protagonist's (and the viewer's) nose... but somehow hidden away.

(P.S. The French DVD by MK2 looks better than the New Yorker DVD and includes a "cinema lesson" by Kiarostami as well as a feature-length documentary about the making of the film.)

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Doug C wrote:

: Wow, that's an interesting statement on her part. I can't guess why she

: might've had an aversion to the film given that it addresses the

: underrepresented democratic movement within contemporary Iran,

: unless she's a conservative, which would explain her embrace of Baran

: but wouldn't explain why she'd be working at a video store in Canada.

I don't think we have to assume anything about her politics, per se -- the reason she promoted Baran over Secret Ballot could be as simple as the fact that, like we've been saying here, Baran is a more commercial, accessible, sentimental film whereas Secret Ballot is a more slow-moving, challenging, issues-oriented kind of film.

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Oh you know what, I must've skimmed over your quote because I thought she had said she didn't want the film to give you the wrong impression of Persians, which would've been a more implicitly political statement.

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Well, the possibility also remains that she may just have bad taste in film. Her next recommendation may have been AI: Artificial Intelligence.

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"The camera, though, is not just a recorder of splendor; it also acts as a mirror (literally, in one fantastic scene) reflecting humanity's common bonds. The engineer, though he has little in common with the people he's talking to (he's sophisticated and worldly, they're humble peasant folk), is able to transcend those differences. He does so primarily by quoting poems, sayings, and stories that he learned as a child. Often, the person he's speaking with will join him midway through the recitation, and they'll finish together. Now they understand each other; now their differences are stripped away."

This is a great paragraph J. Robert. One would think that this is what would happen in the "noble savage" narrative of Time of the Wolf, but actually quite the opposite happens. Once the veneer of difference is stripped away (which the camera mirrors to us), the social structure disintegrates anyway. I found Time of the Wolf to be such a commentary on the idea that simply seeing each other clearly and simply will be enough to compel the world to give itself a big hug. It is quite the opposite, this world needs intercession and redemption.

At least in Haneke's estimation :wink:

BUT, this does not mean that film cannot serve a valuable socio-political function in both clarifying and identifying what the real issues are. I did like Baran so much because here is an area rife with social and political conflict and the director chooses to focus on what...a love story...? Well, it turns out that love stories are important too.

The idea of film being able to elicit "communion" from previously disparate social or political groups is an intriguing one. I guess now I can see that point really lurking behind Close-Up in every detail.

Great review.

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The idea of film being able to elicit \"communion\" from previously disparate social or political groups is an intriguing one. I guess now I can see that point really lurking behind Close-Up in every detail.
Oh, big time.

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Hmm. I don't really think I have any business on this thread anymore (don't have the chops to run with you experts), but I did manage to catch Children of Heaven and found it quite delightful. Thanks for the recommendation, guys. Now I feel like I was too hard on Baran, which I wouldn't mind seeing again.

So, would I like fries with my Bajidi? Yes, please. But even if I've only just started to dip my toes into Iranian cinema, the dip was quite refreshing.

Diane

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I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed it, Diane. I like Children of Heaven better than Baran, too. (And phooey on "chops," you're participation in this thread is definitely appreciated!)

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I'm coming in late to this thread, and have enjoyed and benefitted from the discussion thus far.

I have to say I've enjoyed the Majidi films I have seen, as they were my introduction to Iranian cinema. Having seen them, I am more than interested in checking out other directors and films from the region.

Particularly at times like these in the last few years, I've felt Majidi's films, and the few others I've seen, have on a very basic level humanized the Middle East for me. They have allowed me a glimpse into that world, beyond the angry gun-toting mobs I often see on the news around here. I've been able to see that there are just regular people over there, going to work, making sure the kids have the clothes they need, and struggling with all those obstacles that life brings. I've appreciated that deeply.

On another, more general level, I've felt the Iranian films I've seen have given me a glimpse into the necessity of treating people with the respect and dignity they deserve. They've also allowed me to appreciate more fully the simple pleasures of life, and not be so caught up with the extraneous junk that so often muddles things up for me. These have been pretty important things for me, and I think those Iranian films I have seen have been instrumental in helping me to reflect on a lot of that.

As for other films outside of Majidi, I've seen White Balloon and The Circle and loved them both. I've seen the recommendations above and will take them to heart. I'm thinking about Taste of Cherry next, though if you who are more experienced think I should start somewhere else, I'd be grateful for the suggestions.

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That's gratifying to hear, Diane. Glad you enjoyed Children of Heaven.

Life and Nothing More (1992) is a fictionalized account of a filmmaker who travels to the child's village after a real-life 1990 earthquake devastated it, as he then searches for the child actors who played in the earlier film.

Just picked this up at the library! Unfortunately, the other films in the trilogy aren't available there. I hope it won't hurt to watch the second without having seen the other two.

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Excellent comments John. I can totally appreciate the messages you've been gleaning from Iranian films; they sound inspired.

I actually wouldn't suggest starting with Taste of Cherry, though, because in some ways it's a bit dark for Kiarostami. The Wind Will Carry Us is available on DVD, too, and it might be a better intro.

And I'm glad you found that film, Christian. I don't think it will hurt to see the earthquake trilogy out-of-order at all.

I also want to affirm that I think you summarized the "Majidi issue" well in this thread when you said his films are very accessible and, as John concurs, can serve as a welcoming introduction to more challenging Iranian filmmakers. I do hope I haven't been too dismissive of his work and especially your response to it.

FWIW, I didn't make it to UCLA's screening of Crimson Gold tonight because I see that it opens in L.A. in another week or two, but I do hope to catch some of the Iranian animation tomorrow afternoon...I'll post a report if I do.

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Doug C wrote:

: I actually wouldn't suggest starting with Taste of Cherry, though,

: because in some ways it's a bit dark for Kiarostami.

FWIW, I think this was the first Kiarostami-directed film I ever saw, and I remember liking it quite a bit. I have this strange idea that the only other film he directed that I have seen is Ten, which is also about people driving around and discussing weighty issues, but I could be misremembering something. I do know I saw another film that I believe he wrote, about a boy who has to fix a window at school -- such a simple premise, but wow, what an experience, following him through this Sisyphean task -- but I think someone else directed it.

As for introductions to Iranian film, I think for me it was probably Makhmalbaf's Gabbeh -- that was back when I was editing the culture section at the student newspaper and I was just beginning to gobble up just about any film the distributors threw my way; shortly after this, the Cinematheque had a comprehensive retrospective of Makhmalbaf's films, so I caught a few more there. Or I might have seen The White Balloon shortly before all that, when it played the second-run theatres. Anyway, I just find it amusing that so many people seem to have discovered Iranian film through a movie that I still haven't seen, or a director that I'm only barely familiar with. smile.gif

: . . . I do hope to catch some of the Iranian animation . . .

!! As an animation buff, I am definitely interested in this.

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I also want to affirm that I think you summarized the \"Majidi issue\" well in this thread when you said his films are very accessible and, as John concurs, can serve as a welcoming introduction to more challenging Iranian filmmakers.  I do hope I haven't been too dismissive of his work and especially your response to it.

Nah, it was me, if anyone, who was dismissive of you and others. Sorry. I know Majidi isn't considered the most profound of Iranian filmmakers, but I simply wanted Diane to check out "Children of Heaven" without bringing a lot of baggage to the viewing. Her knowing that Majidi might be lighter fare than other filmmakers wouldn't ruin the film, but I figured that was for her to discover down the road. Still, I shouldn't have been sarcastic, which only serves to cut off deeper discussion.

But now that Diane has seen "Children of Heaven," fire away!

I started "Life and Nothing More" this morning but was able to watch only a few minutes of it. I'll have to finish it later this week.

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Thanks for the suggestion Doug. I'll put Taste of Cherry on the back-burner for now, and plan to track down The Wind Will Carry Us. And I'd be thrilled to hear your report on Iranian animation, if you get to it.

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Well, I just returned from the animation series, and all of the pieces were produced by Iran's Center for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. These weren't art films, but definitely geared towards children with a Sesame Street-style abstracted, parable quality to them. They didn't have any dialogue and the children in attendance seemed to enjoy them a great deal.

Sweet Story (1995, 14 min.) This was dedicated to the memory of the children of Bosnia. It presented a story about a simple woodcutter who saves a crane and is rewarded with gold. At first, he dreams of being a king, but then decides it would be better to give his money to the village, going door-to-door. An evil man later shoots the crane and then "saves" it, but instead of getting gold, he gets a swarm of angry bees.

The animation is stop-motion papercuts, with the characters in black silhouette and naturalistic sounds. The landscapes have a nice minimalist design to them.

Rainbow Fish (1996, 12 min.) is a tale about an inter-species community of fish who travel through the ocean together and help each other escape from evil residents like the squid, the eel, and the sea anemone.

It was animated using a variety of colorful cloths and fabrics, and photographed frame by frame. The backgrounds were cool--made of sheets, various ripples were carefully animated to simulate ocean currents. Full of interesting textures and materials.

Lili, Lili, Little Pool (1992, 16 min.) Beginning with a traditional Persian rug depicting a variety of animals, this film tells a story of a newly-hatched chick, who falls into a pond and the efforts of its parents to save it. They run around to various animals and chirp madly to no avail, until a wise goat helps them by ringing his magical bell and touching the hearts of all the animals. A turtle donates its shell, a worm stands up in the shell and a butterfly rides the worm, creating a makeshift sailboat which saves the chick, suspended in the water by fish.

The animation is drawn in the traditional style of the art on the rug, with vigorous Persian music throughout.

Companion (1994, 16 min.) This is a claymation piece about two nomads who are trying to live in the desert: one slowly but steadily builds a house on a good foundation while the other man lazes about and hurriedly slaps something together. When the rains come, you know what happens. Afterward, the man with the solid foundation invites the other to help him, and soon they are both living in a mansion.

The claymation is simplistic but inventive and photographed with care, and natural sounds augment the visuals well.

Returning (1987, 18 min.) This is animated line drawings with figures similar in form and movement to Mickey Mouse. A man discovers some diamonds by digging into the ground, and the story conveys various ways in which he becomes greedy, thus ruining his project or killing himself Wile E. Coyote-style.

Overall, I was struck with the simplicity of the settings and stories, and their thematic emphasis on things like community-building and wariness toward riches. All in all, fun stuff.

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One would think that this is what would happen in the "noble savage" narrative of Time of the Wolf, but actually quite the opposite happens. Once the veneer of difference is stripped away (which the camera mirrors to us), the social structure disintegrates anyway. I found Time of the Wolf to be such a commentary on the idea that simply seeing each other clearly and simply will be enough to compel the world to give itself a big hug. It is quite the opposite, this world needs intercession and redemption.

Exactly right, Mike. I can't get over that last reel of Time of the Wolf, and comparing it to Kiarostami's notion of communion brings up so many interesting and provocative ideas. They almost demand someone write an article. I nominate either Leary or Doug C. Mike H can jump in if he'd like.

I guess now I can see that point really lurking behind Close-Up in every detail.

Yes. To truly appreciate Kiarostami, you almost have to see all or at least most of his major works. They genuinely influence and comment upon each other.

Particularly at times like these in the last few years, I've felt Majidi's films, and the few others I've seen, have on a very basic level humanized the Middle East for me. They have allowed me a glimpse into that world, beyond the angry gun-toting mobs I often see on the news around here. I've been able to see that there are just regular people over there, going to work, making sure the kids have the clothes they need, and struggling with all those obstacles that life brings. I've appreciated that deeply.

This was exactly what attracted me to Iranian cinema (and especially Kiarostami) in the first place. I vividly remember my first experience was when I saw Close Up and Homework back to back in the mid-'90s. I went because I had heard Kiarostami was a major figure, but I didn't know anything else. Honestly, it wasn't Close Up that sold me; it was Homework. I couldn't get over how much these 7-8-year-old boys were just like the kids I tutored. It was a mind-opening experience. I didn't really "get" Close Up until I saw it at Cornerstone, under Mike H's tutelage.

Thanks for the suggestion Doug. I'll put Taste of Cherry on the back-burner for now, and plan to track down The Wind Will Carry Us.

I agree with Doug that Taste of Cherry isn't the best place to start. It can be a tough go for some folk. The Wind Will Carry Us is easier but still pretty oblique. If you can find a copy of Where is the Friend's House? or Life and Nothing More, those are much more accessible and give just as good an introduction to Kiarostami's work. Btw, I would say not to see Through the Olive Trees first, but you can't even find that on video. Miramax bastards! Doug, is that out in Europe or Asia?

Strangely, another good intro to Iranian cinema is Michael Winterbottom's In this World whenever that becomes available on video.

Thanks for all the insights, folks. This is a fun discussion to jump into.

J Robert

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Thanks so much for the suggestions jrobert. I'll see about those titles too. I need to go make a thorough catalogue of the Farsi section of my video store. I'm just glad they have a Farsi section. biggrin.gif

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I don't want to derail the thread, but this post was instigated by my viewing of "Life and Nothing More," so I'm raising the issue here.

What's with the subtitles in this, and other foreign films? Why are some of them so awful? I'm not talking about the translation itself -- I don't speak Farsi, or whatever language "Life" uses, so I wouldn't pick up on that. What I'm referring to are typos every other line, words capitalized as if they're proper nouns when they're not.

I guess my question boils down to this: Does the Iranian distributor subtitle the film before it's released internationally, or is that the responsibility of the U.S. distributor? I'm guessing it's the former, but I know that subtitles on foreign films ("Andrei Rublev" comes to mind) often are updated (in the case of "Rublev," I believe Janus did the re-subtitling, but I'm not sure if it was related to a theatrical revival or was just for video).

Lots of questions buried here. Which countries/companies are responsible for the subtitling, and why don't they hire copy-editors?

Related story: When I interned with Circle Releasing Corp. in 1989, one of the make-work projects they had me do was proofread a new set of subtitles for John Woo's "The Killer" against a previous set, just to make sure no chunks of dialogue had been inadvertently omitted. In that case, I'm not sure who was responsible for the new subtitles, but I do know they were reviewed by at least two of the distributor's employees ahead of the film's U.S. theatrical release.

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Yeah JRobert, Through the Olive Trees is available on PAL VHS in the UK, but you can sometimes find dubs on ebay. It's also available on VCD from Asia, I believe, but the quality isn't supposed to be very good.

And I know exactly what you mean by the poor subtitles, Christian! I think it's up to the US distributor (Criterion almost always does a complete re-translation for each of their releases--two in the case of Throne of Blood). As much as I appreciate Facets as an institution, the videos they distribute on their label (like Life and Nothing More) are often not very well produced, in terms of image quality or subtitles. I wouldn't let that stop you from watching the movies, but they could use some improvement.

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