my review: taste of cherry

rewatched abbas kiarostami’s ‘taste of cherry’ after many years and enjoyed it much more this time. the premise of the film is a bit absurd and persnickety, but it should be understood as a folktale rather than a precise representation of reality. i was mesmerized by the conversations between mr badii (the main character) and the passengers in his car, who all react differently to mr badii’s appeal. each character is played to perfection: the nervous young soldier, the seminarist who relies on religious texts for steadiness, and finally the older taxidermist (the film’s most richly sketched character) who radiates compassion and uses his own life along with poetry, song and humor to change mr badii’s mind. he’s the only one who accepts mr badii’s unusual (ungodly?) request.

kiarostami chooses to focus on the periphery rather than on what is at the center. the soldier is a kurd and mr badii reminds him of kurdish strength and resilience in the face of persecution. the seminarist is an afghan refugee who talks about war and dislocation. finally, the taxidermist is an azarbaijani turk. all minorities. all on the margins, not at the center of society. a subtle way to provide political context and address issues that would otherwise be censored.

the film is shot in the outskirts of tehran where there is new construction. we are constantly immersed (buried?) in the dust and noise produced by bulldozers and dump trucks. we are on the outside (where everything shifts and is unsettled), not in the innermost sanctum of the city.

kiarostami’s enthusiasm for cars is on display, much like in ‘ten,’ ‘certified copy’ and the ‘kokar trilogy.’ there is something intimate about placing the camera inside a car.

the end of the film is genius. it reminded me of cezanne — his use of thick brushstrokes and flat shapes, his reinvention of perspective, the unpainted corners and pencil outlines in his work, all make the tools of his trade visible. similarly, kiarostami reveals himself, his film crew, and the cameras, shotgun mics, boom poles, and megaphones which make filmmaking possible. it allows us to take a step back and hope for a more cheerful ending to ‘taste of cherry.’

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