September 6 - October 30
“Cinema is truth twenty-four frames per second.”—Jean-Luc Godard
“In cinema, by fabricating lies we may never reach the fundamental truth, but we will always be on our way to it. We can never get close to the truth except through lying.”—Abbas Kiarostami
"Film begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.”—Jean-Luc Godard
From September 6 through October 30, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the retrospective Abbas Kiarostami, a series that encompasses a total of thirty-two films, the largest selection of the work of this major Iranian director yet available in North America. Most titles are presented in new digital restorations, thanks to the Criterion Collection and mk2. Included are twenty-two full-length and short features, and ten shorts. Early short features including EXPERIENCE, FELLOW CITIZEN, and FIRST GRADERS are exceedingly rare, while a number of the shorts were only recently rediscovered and restored. The October portion of the series is predominantly devoted to later work.
In a filmmaking career that extended from THE BREAD AND ALLEY, his first short in 1970, to 24 FRAMES, his final feature, completed and released following his untimely 2016 death, Kiarostami’s career blazed with the creativity of a true innovator. Born in Tehran in 1940, and exhibiting an early interest in the arts, he earned a degree in painting at Tehran University. Throughout his life, he was to apply his wide-ranging talents to poetry, photography, installation art, and design, all of which fed into his career in cinema.
Using the most minimal of narrative methods and many non-professional actors, Kiarostami frequently lays bare the artifice behind the fiction, creating films within films in complex and layered stories that grapple with issues at the very heart of human existence. His protagonists are often motivated by quests, as in WHERE IS THE FRIEND’S HOUSE?, or engaged in journeys, as in AND LIFE GOES ON, with the journey itself becoming the end goal. Kiarostami’s own quest was for an emotional and societal truth that could not be attained through realism alone. Is he a realist or a master illusionist? His modus operandi is to tease a greater and more accurate reality from the facts through fiction.
The Palme d’Or that Kiarostami was awarded for A TASTE OF CHERRY at Cannes in 1997 confirmed what scores of critics had already discerned: that this was a master of his medium working at the height of his powers. As he moved increasingly in an international sphere, gaining a wide international audience, Kiarostami nurtured the Persian roots of his work while delving ever deeper into experimentation with self-reflexive narrative, illusion, and cinematic sleight of hand, never losing his compassionate eye on the vagaries of life.
Women gained a new ascendency in his work, as did themes of emotional resonance, in films including TEN, CERTIFIED COPY, and LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE. In these films, relationships are most often based on illusion, and communications between men and women are governed by slippery trade-offs, compromises, and half-truths. By contrast, SHIRIN is a stirring portrait of womankind through the faces of 113 actresses.
In his later work, Kiarostami’s methods evolved with changing technology, and he brought an artist’s boundless curiosity to the transition to digital filmmaking. In digital technology he found the perfect tools for altering images to his idealized vision, in films including FIVE (FOR OZU) and 24 FRAMES. Manipulating, altering, and creating seamless composite imagery, he found the means to arrive at truth through illusion.
For their assistance in preparing this retrospective, the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks: Brian Belovaric, Janus Films; Justin Di Pietro, IFC Films; Jonathan Rosenbaum; Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa; and Ehsan Khoshbakht.
SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT! Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Kiarostami film on any Saturday in August, September, or October, and get a ticket for the second Kiarostami film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.)
Like Someone in Love
2012, Abbas Kiarostami, France/Japan, 109 min.
With Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno
“Sinuous and beguiling…an elegant mystery that resonates beyond its final, jolting moment.”—Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times
“Gorgeously acted by all…craftsmanship is so high, it makes everything else currently in theaters look slovenly.”—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
One night and day in the life of a Tokyo college student moonlighting as a call girl becomes a cinematic hall of mirrors in Kiarostami’s hands, working once again in an international mode following his hit CERTIFIED COPY. Sent to a high-level elderly client, Akiko finds his request for conversation and dinner rather than sex beyond her abilities. Intentions are ambiguous when the old man, his would-be seductress, and her jealous and impulsive boyfriend become tangled in an emotional triangle distinguished by half-truths and self-serving fiction. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Five (For Ozu)
Five Dedicated to Ozu
2003, Abbas Kiarostami, Iran/Japan/France, 78 min.
“Confidence, elegance…deep space, solitude, and wonderment.”—Nathan Lee, New York Sun
“There’s a relaxing, meditative quality that also comes of Ozu’s images.”—Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
Five hypnotic, exquisitely composed shots of the sea and seashore appear as uninterrupted camera runs, but appearances are highly deceiving, as Kiarostami intends. In this film that now may be interpreted as an experimental precursor to the director’s final feature 24 FRAMES, each sequence was intricately and seamlessly composed from as many as twenty separate shots in order to create the contemplative reality of the artist’s poetic vision. A piece of driftwood rolls in the waves; tourists contemplate the ocean from a walkway; wild dogs nap on the shore; ducks go for a walk; and the sounds of frogs and crickets accompany a view of moonlight on water. Without dialogue. DCP digital. (BS)